Time flies when you’re having fun, a statement we all know too well. One minute you’re riding high in the prime of your life, the next you’re wondering how you fell for it again. You’d give anything to go back to the good times and you ask yourself why you didn’t appreciate it more, why you didn’t pay more attention.
That’s life, you get the one attempt. So you’d better make the most of it.
NBA players mostly embody that. They’ve been given incredible physical talents to be able to play the best sport on Earth, the game we love. They also have to work at their gifts or face tumbling from the mountain top. They grind and grind and grind, snatching up every opportunity they can to gain that extra advantage over their adversaries. From the time they first picked up a basketball to that first dunk, to making the varsity team in high school, to the NCAA tournament and then the NBA draft and beyond.
The hard work never stops.
Every step is part of the journey that every NBA player takes, but journeys have both a beginning and an end. Every player eventually succumbs to the curse of time. Every year a new set of players retire having decided that for whatever reason their time in the National Basketball Association is over. With every set, there are always the big names that have provided some incredible highlights over their careers and contributed to the rich history of the NBA.
Here are my top five who are most likely to retire after next season, so let’s enjoy them while we can.
5. Udonis Haslem
Hard work, dedication, blue-collar.
These are all used to describe the reserved Udonis Haslem who spent his entire with the Miami Heat, a career that lead to 3 rings, a franchise all-time rebounding title and the love of an entire city.
The league has a few players like Udonis, but you never hear about them. Haslem was never flashy, he rarely made the top-ten plays but he was a winner through and through. He knew what it meant to sacrifice for his team, he knew the meaning of true loyalty.
Haslem is now 37 and only played 16 games last year. It looks like this is his last year, the last time he’ll get to prove that devotion to the game really does reap its rewards.
4. Jason Terry
A knockdown shooter and a prolific trash talker, the Jet was a great scorer in his day for the Mavericks. His best seasons came in 2009 where he won the NBA’s Sixth man award averaging nearly 20 points a game from the bench, and 2011 where he finally won his ring, famously trash-talking LeBron James into underperforming.
Terry, like a fine red wine, aged with grace. He became one of the premier three-point shooters in the league and now sits third all-time in made 3s with 2,242. He is now 39 years old hasn't spent last season with the up and coming Milwaukee Bucks.
If this is to be his last season then I wish him well and look forward to seeing his famous airplane celebration one last time.
3. Jamal Crawford
Age usually brings with it a degrading body. Your joints get rusty, your bones weaken and your reactions slow... unless you’re Jamal Crawford.
Despite being nearly 38 years old Crawford still has one of the top three handles in the game today. He’s simply a magician who can make the ball do anything he wants whenever he wants. He is in contention for the greatest sixth man of all time with his ability to come into a game and just create his own offense with his handling and shot-making abilities.
Crawford at one time was averaging 20 points a game for the Knicks in 2007/8. Recently he’s been heavily contributing to the highlight reel machine that is the LA Clippers.
The NBA is a business and entertainment sells tickets, and Jamal Crawford certainly does just that.
2. Vince Carter
Dunk contests are where we get to see the best of basketball players and their 40 inch plus verticals in an array of acrobatics that leave you speechless. Many a time a big man has been used as a prop to demonstrate the jumping prowess of the athletes involved.
Vince Carter has used a big man before in a dunk contest...oh no wait that dunk was in a game in an Olympics matchup in 2000. The dunk was so vicious that it got its own nickname, “le dunk de la mort”.
Vince Carter is the greatest dunker we’ve ever seen in the NBA. It was likely he was holding his own personal dunk contest every night with himself because nobody else could compete. He was one of the league’s most iconic stars in the early 00s and has somehow managed to retain some of his abilities into his 40s.
Vince wasn’t just a rim-wrecker though, he currently stands 5th all-time in made threes and has scored nearly 25,000 points in his 19-year career.
Hopefully, Vince can produce some more highlights this year to remind us of what he once was, and still is today.
1. Dirk Nowitzki
This truly remarkable plateau has only been reached by 7 players in NBA history with that list including the likes of Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Kobe Bryant. Last season Dirk Nowitzki added his name to that list.
In a game against the LA Lakers Dirk caught the ball on the left side with his back to the basket. He then proceeded to show why he is the greatest shooting big man of all time by rising up and hitting the mid-range jumper right in the face of Larry Nance Jr.
Dirk would have never won a dunk contest, he never had incredible speed or strength. What he did have was a work ethic that allowed his to develop one of the best post games we’ve ever seen.
Dirk practiced shots that were reserved for games of H.O.R.S.E. His footwork was phenomenal and no matter if there was a handing actually on his face, the chances are with that fadeaway jump shot, that the ball was going in the basket.
Dirk is easily the greatest Mav of all time and also the greatest European basketball player of all time. He bought Dallas its first NBA title in 2011 in a playoff run that will go down in history as one of the greatest.
Through hard work and a commitment to excellence, Dirk is still very effective even at the age of 39. He deserves a farewell tour next year as team remember why they loved to watch him, but hated playing against him.