The NBA naturally takes a similar course as all things in life do – the old leaves make way for the new. As the years pass and championship trophies trade hands, a few franchise-forming players start to rise. These All-Stars must battle through the old guard of stubborn veterans, while also keeping the hot new kids in the league off their back.
It’s not an easy task, but after a long career of successfully fighting for your team and consistently playing at a pace-setting level there comes a time when you can’t go on. Dramatics aside, these guys are retiring millionaires with enough celebrity to land them multiple sponsorship deals and credibility for a lifetime. The 2016 season has become an iconic year of retirements and shifts in the power rankings.
‘The Black Mamba’ retiring pulled on the heartstrings of every basketball fan around the world. Bryant is arguably one of the best players in the history of the NBA. 37 years old is a relatively early time to retire for players of his stature, but Kobe has made enough money and contributed enough to the Lakers and the NBA to play at a lower level than he has been accustomed to for his entire career. Three consecutive championships from 2000 to 2002, and another back-to-back run in 2009 to 2010 was enough of a send-off for the 18-time All-Star.
Although Kobe retired during the 2016 season, the past couple of years were more rocky than Lakers fans were used to. From the tumultuous Howard-Kobe beef to Kobe’s injury and the ensuing low game-winning percentages, the Lakers fell off the radar as a playoff threat. The Lakers’ future is going to circle around Nick Young, D’Angelo Russell, and #2 pick of the 2016 draft, Brandon Ingram.
Tim Duncan’s career, like Bryant’s, bridged three decades – all for the San Antonio Spurs. ‘The Big Fundamental’ has defined the Spurs’ game-play and their fundamental approach to basketball. Duncan has helped to bring five NBA championships to San Antonio, but most importantly has helped to keep the Spurs consistently good throughout his tenure. Duncan’s support and coach Gregg Popovich’s patriarchy has helped to evolve the team during each of the changing eras.
From 1997-2016, the Spurs and Tim Duncan were always in the same sentence. 2017 is going to be a defining season for the franchise, as the torch is passed down to the younger generation. With Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge, the Spurs seem to be in good hands.
POTENTIAL UPCOMING RETIREMENTS
The 15-time NBA All-star and one-time NBA champion is known as one of the meanest and most ruthless defenders in the game. After getting drafted to the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1995, the young KG was one of the most explosive defenders in the league. After being traded to the Celtics and winning a championship, and then going to the Nets, Garnett decided to finish his career back with Minnesota. Unfortunately, his knee has seen better days and he may have to retire prior to the 2017 season.
Chris Bosh is a two-time NBA champion, but unfortunately for Heat fans he has been sitting on the bench for the 2016 season with his future questionable. Whether the Heat choose to medically retire him to free up cap space or, ideally, he is cleared to play play, Bosh has done enough for the league and the franchise at 32 years of age.
Once a team loses its star player(s), it either falls into a rebuilding phase that includes a couple of losing seasons, or it flows seamlessly along. The famed 2003 draft class including D-Wade, LeBron, and Carmelo isn’t getting younger, and it is going to be a strange NBA in a few years when you turn on a game without seeing Kobe, LeBron, Wade, Carmelo, Bosh, or Dirk.
But I’m sure this is how the previous generation felt when Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Charles Barkley transitioned out of the League.