Wednesday, 4 September 2013

COURTSIDE COLUMN-Capping Off The Old Era

Hardwood Classics.

I remember when a Point Guard with a gangsters goatee and bleached blonde hair, shaved his dome and honed his game and made not scoring the cool Magic Johnson trend again for those playing basketball in the park and emulating their and the televisions latest NBA heroes. I remember the man with the boys second name made it all look like childs play, schooling everyone from Chris Childs to Stephon Marbury. Lobbing alley-oops to the Matrix, Shawn Marion and rising like a Sun in Phoenix. I remember the line, "Are you carrying any metallic items on you?" Keys? Dimes?! Yep! Jason Kidd was dropping them, becoming the future and excitement of the new millennium like that Keanu Reeves flick with the pill. What the? Woah! He almost won in New Jersey like he did in Dallas. Now in Brooklyn, from leading the Nets as a player to a head-coach. from the playbook to the dry-erase he could truly guide the New York team with a new jersey to that land he promised with every perfect pass.

I remember in the 90's when as a young 11 year old living in England my only exposure to basketball lied between it being on too late to be allowed to stay up, or on a satellite television feed we just didn't have the dish for. I remember reading about Jordan's retirement and wishing I could have actually seen him play on T.V. beyond 'Space Jam'...let alone for real. I remember taking solace in playing out basketball stories, emulations and dreams via video games, because no one would play Basketball with me outside (and the hoop in the back-yard was broken anyway and school used courts for dodgeball (if you can dodge a basketball, you can dodge the greatest game ever)) let alone talk about the latest issue of XXL (the hoops not hip-hop one...remember the times) with me. I remember the now pathetic pixilated-but at the time great graphics-of NBA Live '96 (I just couldn't wait and save for the next one (which you could probably get now for a matter of pennies)). I remember playing as Grant Hill, because like the missing Jordan he was unstoppable like all the rating sliders where mouse moved to 99. No wonder I copped his Detroit jersey from a thrift shop and asked my friend to pick up his Magic one on a trip to Orlando.

I remember the man who came back from a horrific potentially career ending (and certainly dampening) injury, reinvigorating and inventing himself as a valuable veteran player of legend from everyone from the Suns to the Clippers. I remember in Orlando he teamed up with a man who suffered a similar Disneyworld Penny Hardaway cursed fate...and could have been so much more in this duo that a more patient franchise and fan time waited and waited for, but to no avail. It could have been dynamic, as could the one in Houston, Texas with that tall China man, or up North In Canada with that high-flying dunking cousin of his. I remember Mac could have brought Magic to Orlando with Hill, or propelled the Rockets out of this world with Yao. Most disappointingly he and Vince Carter could have taken their dunk contest further in Toronto, waking up the dinosaurs like Jurassic Park. Still instead of Jordan/Pippen 2, we had a pair of Raptors in a lost world who where beaten to the kitchen like Lex and Tim. Still I remember rewinding my VCR so much to show my Formula One fan father that amazing All-Star dunk off the backboard so much that I wore out the videotapes heads like the amazed fans brains. I remember all those points in all those seconds against San Antonio. I remember Tracy McGrady finally got out of the first round as a Spur to close the career.

I remember the smallest guy on the court being the true Goliath on the court even against Shaquille O'Neal and all that Hollywood power. I remember a slippery, pesky little player that stained my Lakers precious, could have been historic clean sweep while stepping over Tyrone Lue and practically stepping on our collective balls. NUTS! I remember the cool headbands, cornrows and sleeves, the baggy jerseys and 80's, Stockton and league rebellion shorts. The Philadelphia soul (with Springsteen's 'Streets' playing) like the good Doctor, with the number 6 jersey tribute in the same T-Mac All-Star game. I remember the tattoo's, especially on the graphically updated NBA Live (so long '96). I remember the crossovers from the courts to the streets, the suits to the sweats. I remember the heart, the passion. The hand to the ear scream. "He.Is.The.Man". I remember the comments. Practice? The DJ Jazzy Jeff/J-Live influenced track that inspired the first ever basketball article I wrote half a decade ago that ended up getting me noticed before published. I remember the bold and brave Allen Iverson got me into this industry and showed me a small-time, small-town overseas basketball fan could make it to the big stage of the Big Apple. How can you even begin to thank that?

I remember it all like it was yesterday, because these 90's to early new millennium greats and legends can't be that old right? Retired? C'mon now! Am I really that old? With all this disbelief the only thing that's for sure is that these guys that represent a after Jordan, before Kobe dominance period of play all deserve their spots in the Naismith Hall Of Fame, one day, one year and one suit after another. Why? Because I could have broke it down statistically for you but as this featured column dictates these guys where worth so much more than that. They where more than brand names or twitter trends, they in their own individual ways where icons with legendary legacies that still run true and inspire too. Reminding us sadly that Kobe's next and after LeBron who do we have left?

Who do we have that really has that individual, golden era to the new millennium character that is no act today? Rock and movie stars still play to the grey and real iconic rappers will stay true in every one of their rhymes (what's up Luda), even having Public Enemy or Run-DMC action figure status. But these true superheroes of the hardwood get old like Hakeem, Ewing and the dying centre position and last only in memory instead of comic-book to big screen adaptations like the Batmen, Supermen and Avengers we marvel at. If only we could watch their talent grow forever along with the Magic's, Birds and M.J's decades gone without missed dunks, playoffs and floor-time. Still the old must make way for the new and that is just life and the humbling and ageing of it. Still here's to Jason Kidd, Grant Hill, Tracy McGrady and Allen Iverson. To all of you, there'll never be any others quite like you. Forget the armchair fans who may critique the fall of these guys career for all they rose. What could have been? Let's just be thankful for what was! I remember. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

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