NBA heros’ retirement spurs reflection on childhoodPublished 4:17am Thursday, June 13, 2013
Column: Notes from Nashville, by Andrew Dyrdal
There are certain important people who remind us of our childhood.
Whether they’re actors or athletes, while they’re young and still active in their careers, we feel young, too. Like our childhood is still relevant.
But when they retire, or, in some cases, die, it can shock us back to reality and coldly remind us that we’re not kids anymore.
Aside from the usual suspects like Super Nintendo and pogs, my childhood was represented by a particular pack of basketball cards and the players who were printed on the card stock.
My interest in the NBA began developing in 1993 when Michael Jordan was leading the Chicago Bulls to their third straight championship in what would become the first of two separate “three-peats.”
The next summer, I was given a set of trading cards that included every prospect of the 1994 NBA Draft. The players were not yet drafted but donning their college jerseys, and the images of each card are still burned in my memory: Purdue’s Glenn Robinson soaring toward the basket, California’s Jason Kidd tossing a one-handed pass and Duke’s Grant Hill squaring up for a jump shot.
The back of each card displayed the player’s collegiate stats, and I’d play the role of GM, lining out each card on our basement’s ping pong table and selecting a player for every NBA team, with those who averaged the most points going first. As I grew older I began caring much more about assists.
I did this year after year, even after the players were no longer prospects but NBA veterans. I knew their height, weight and rebounds per game like I knew my ABC’s, and when I watched Hill and Kidd face off on TV, I felt like I was seven again.
I was able to feel that way for 19 years, even though I could no longer fit into my green Dallas Mavericks Kidd jersey or Fila sneakers endorsed by Hill. But with both players announcing their retirements last week, every member of the 1994 draft class has now left the game.
Cue that cold reality: I’m not a kid anymore.
Former Timberwolf Kevin Garnett is now the longest-tenured player in the NBA. My dad snuck me into a bar at the Mall of America in 1995 to watch him be drafted No. 5 overall.
When the Big Ticket hangs in up, I’m sure many more of us will feel the sting of our fading adolescence.