by user Wttt02005

With the retirements of NBA greats like Karl Malone, Reggie Miller, John Stockton, and Steve Kerr, a new generation of basketball has emerged. Michael Jordan ushered in this new era during his final All-Star Game appearance in 2003, stating, "I leave the game in good hands." Though one may argue that his years in Washington were his worst and his comeback a failure, it was impossible that night to not shed a tear and say goodbye to what was truly his Airness’ era.

As Michael Jordan took center stage and uttered these words, he faced our generation of all-stars. Kobe, AI, KG, Tim Duncan, to name a few. What does the future hold for these superstars? Who will be the next player to be regarded as one of the greatest of all time?

Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire: The relationship between the two has just begun but already I can see the makings of the next Stockton/Malone duo. Surely, there are statistical similarities. Stockton averaged 13 points and 10.5 assists in his illustrious career while Nash averages nearly 20 points and 11 assists this season. Nash’s numbers were similar last season. Both Stoudemire and Malone are and were low-post threats for their team. They both have very strong upper bodies and mediocre at best free throw percentages. There is even a similarity in the way the duos play together: Stoudemire is the main recipient of Nash’s passes as Malone was the recipient of Stockton’s passes. This relationship become creepy when you compare the other players. Shawn Marion and Jeff Hornacek are and were the third scoring options for their respective teams yet underrated. Finally, Bo Outlaw and Antoine Carr each wear and wore special protective glasses. I hope, for the Suns’ sake, the similarity between these two teams does not go beyond the post season.

Dirk Nowitzki: Nearly every NBA great has revolutionized the game. Dirk Nowitzski is clearly in the process of doing this, breaking down the stereotype of seven footers who have to play the center position. Though seven feet tall, this guy has a stroke that is arguably the best in the league. He is currently the only seven footer who can shoot the three-pointer effectively. He made such a statement during the All-Star game, besting former champion Ray Allen 19-14. It is not surprising to me that many call him the next Larry Bird (who happened to win a few 3pt shootouts himself). If he had an array of post moves and was very built, I honestly would think he is the best player in the game of basketball today. In a few more years, he may be.

Allen Iverson: Probably the toughest player in the game ever. This guy does not care how big or how strong his opposition is; he is going to make sure he gets to the rim. Though usually very successful, his body will at times end up on the floor. This has yet to waiver his confidence as he is resilient and practically immune to it by now. However, despite his hard work, he has not got up from championship teams striking him and his team down. He has tried and tried over again but has never been able to reach that plateau, coming as close as the NBA finals with the Lakers in 2000. Though MVP AI and his #1 seeded Sixers squad stole home court advantage in Game 1, they unleashed a beast and lost the next four games for what was clearly a blowout NBA finals. Six years have passed since then; all of which were unsuccessful as the Sixers struggled to just reach the playoffs. Even with Webber, the team is still just a .500 team. Iverson is only growing older and despite the impact he has on short players (6’1 is short for basketball players but definitely not me), I expect him to have as many rings as Charles Barkley. AI reflected on this situation in an interview conducted two years ago in which he stated that many may still regard him as a great player long after he retires, but he will not feel that way until he has a ring, something concrete that said at one point, you were the greatest and your team was the greatest.

Tim Duncan: Truly the pinnacle of what any basketball coach wants in a player. Known as the “Big Fundamental” (perhaps a euphemism for the “Big Boring”), Duncan has shown that just doing the little things can make you successful. If you work hard at boxing out and running the court, you can get very far. However, because he is very humble, Duncan never is given credit for his and his team’s success. This is no more obvious than the tussle between the Spurs and the Lakers two years ago. Down 0-2, the Lakers realized that if they just double-team Tony Parker, they would win. This proved successful, and the Lakers won the next four games. The fact that teams can actually ignore Tim Duncan demonstrates that he is not one to count on to take over games. This usually does not become a problem considering the Spurs generally blowout their competition day in and day out, but if there’s anything missing in Duncan’s game, it’s that killer instinct during crunch time. Unfortunately, this killer instinct prevents Duncan from being known as one of the greatest players of all time. Duncan can do all the fundamentals, but basketball is game of creativity, flare, and energy, three things that Duncan does not exhibit. However, he has proven that you do not need those things to win, and he may prove that again in the next few years as the Spurs may be the next dynasty.

Kevin Garnett: Mr. Basketball himself, Garnett has had his ups-and-downs. In his first six tries in the playoffs, KG and his Timberwolves did not advance past the first round. Garnett took nearly all the blame for this, because he never had any help. He truly carried the team. However, two years ago, The Timberwolves acquired Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell in the off-season who provided veteran leadership and scoring to a team whose second option was Wally Szczerbiak. The trio of Cassell, Sprewell, and Garnett proved to be very successful and productive. Had they a few more years together, the group could have rivaled former Big 3’s Nash-Nowitzski-Finley and Cassell-Allen-Robinson. Unfortunately, numerous complications resulted in the Timberwolves missing the playoffs last year and the loss of Cassell to the Clippers and Sprewell to…somewhere (He has not retired; he is just not playing this year). Though only thirty years old, many have wrote Garnett off as past his prime. There are numerous speculations these days that he will be traded to the Knicks in order for the Timberwolves to move past the KG era. I honestly think KG has had his only shot at a title. Though a great player, he will probably not see the chance of a ring until he moves to a team that can give him sufficient help. Considering his name is involved in trade rumors, I really do believe he is past his prime or at least not capable of carrying a team all by himself.

Kobe Bryant: If there is any player as gifted as Michael Jordan, it is Kobe Bryant. Though he does not like the comparison and wishes to make a name for himself, there is no denying the similarities. Surely, the Lakers are hopeful that their current squad develops as the new Bulls. I am not particularly optimistic about Odom becoming the next Scottie Pippen, but they truly have a leader in Kobe Bryant. Though Kobe is having a season that may net him the MVP award by season’s end, he definitely does not have a team that can advance to the second round of the playoffs. It will be a huge accomplishment to reach the playoffs, so it may be the first time in Laker history that the team is just “happy to be there.” The Lakers are expecting to contend in two more years; by then, the team and fans expect draft pick Andrew Bynum to be a low post threat similar to Jermaine O’Neal. Though he shows promise, there is going to be many adjustments on Kobe’s part to allow his growth. Should the Lakers require more time, Kobe will start to become too old and have to step down in the same fashion as Reggie Miller did, allowing the new generation players like Bynum to become the new stars. Because of his ego, I am not quite sure Kobe will do this. I could definitely see Kobe moving on in his mid 30’s, searching for a chance at one more ring. Will he ever find himself with another championship? Well, he is Jordan right?

There are definitely other players worthy of seeing what the future holds for them, but these are truly the greatest in my mind. In addition, they are usually the best at their current positions and/or not the upcoming generation. This is why I chose not to consider players like Tracy McGrady, Dwayne Wade, Yao Ming, and Lebron James.


Tue 03/14/06, 6:26 pm EST


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