Age – Friend or Foe?

wheelchair

Ultimately, foe.

I mean, I can’t believe you didn’t know that!  I’ve got a bunch of hot model girls hunched over my laptop just laughing at you right now.   How embarrassing…

But seriously, age is not a friend to me or you or most people around the globe.  Age is especially not so kind to basketball players.

Ever since Dirk Nowitzki led his team to a championship in 2011, almost immediately, we’ve been hearing that age has ultimately caught up to him, and his game is on the steady decline.  This theory was first introduced to us by Sir Charles Barkley.

“That’s the way it happens, you drop off the face of the earth. His days of being the man are over. I hate to break it to you. I lived it.” – Charles Barkley 

When Barkley made this comment, Nowitzki averaged less than 17 points a game for the season.  The previous year, Nowitzki averaged 23 points a season.  So clearly, Charles was right about this age thing.  Case closed and this is a boring article…

Tap the brakes a bit.

Ever since Nowitzki entered the league he’s been known for 2 things:  Celebrations that made us all feel uncomfortable, and his meticulous, almost robotic, work ethic.  The man was a machine; a work horse. Every single offseason and training camp was the same routine for Nowitzki. This cycle is what led him to play the best basketball of his career in the NBA Finals.  After reaching his ultimate goal of The Finals, Nowitzki had to rush over to Germany and play some Euro Ball.  Once he had exhausted his body further than ANY other basketball player in 2011, Nowitzki finally rested.

Boy did Dirk rest.  “I didn’t touch a basketball for nine weeks… The longest time in my life,” Nowitzki told ESPN.

On top of this, the NBA had decided to lock out the players for 161 days, resulting in the cancellation of training camp, preseason, and a large chunk of the regular season.  More importantly for Nowitzki, it resulted in him resting even more.

Once the lockout had finished and games began on December 25, the NBA said “Merry Christmas!  You get 66 games starting… now!”

Nowitzki told ESPN, “I had a tough time getting going this year. I’m very specific taking care of my body during the season; I eat right, I lift, I train, so it took me a while to get going with the whole lockout. There were too many games, not enough preparation time so I paid for that a little bit.”

“A little bit” is an understatement.  Nowitzki actually had to take some time off for some conditioning, after one of the slowest starts to his career.

Once Nowitzki got back in the swing of things, which took a while, he was back to his old self.  How much so?  He averaged 26.8 points a game in the only playoff series he played in last year.  This is our last memory of Dirk Nowitzki playing NBA basketball.

Armed with all of this info, Nowitzki loyalists would suggest that it was lack of preparation, not age, followed by being hurled into a grueling NBA schedule, that resulted in his decline.

So the argument is waged.  Some say Nowitzki has lost it, that age has caught up to him and that he is no longer an elite basketball player in the NBA.  ESPN’s “NBA Rank “dropped Nowitzki out of their “Top 10 List”.   Others say that he is still a top 5 player that had a bad season.  The evidence supports both groups.

Age is certainly affecting Nowitzki’s game.  Below are the numbers from 2005 to that glorious 2011 season where, according to most people, he was at his best.

2005- 26.1 pts/ 9.7 reb

2006- 26.1 pts/ 9.0 reb

2007- 24.6 pts/ 8.7 reb

2008- 23.6 pts/ 8.6 reb

2009- 25.9 pts/ 8.4 reb

2010 – 25.5 pts/ 7.7 reb

2011- 23 pts/ 7.0 reb

Am I reading that right?  The lowest statistics in points and rebounds per game, for Dirk Nowitzki, occurred while he was playing “the best basketball of his career”?  How can this be?

One can argue that the curse of age has been attacking  Dirk Nowitzki much earlier than we think.  Here is Nowitzki in 2000.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzHRLEiAmqE

That athletic fellow is almost unrecognizable now.  This is because Nowitzki said goodbye to that athletic fellow long ago.  Now Nowitzki has a game that relies less and less on his athleticism.

So did Nowitzki put on his fighting gloves and defeat age?  Did he conquer age by drinking from The Fountain?  Absolutely not.  He embraced age, as his bro.  Nowitzki has adapted to his body’s decline, which is allowing him to discover more aspects to his own game.  Did we see a single, one-legged fade in that video above?  Absolutely not.  Nowitzki has aged well and that incontestable one-legged fade is a testament to that.

So why is age, ultimately a foe to Nowitzki, as stated earlier?  The answer is pretty obvious.  Age makes you too slow and too weak to play the game.  Age makes you retire.  And ultimately, age makes you… die.   Age is, ultimately everyone’s foe.

This article just got really heavy.

But none of that has happened to Dirk Nowitzki, and until they do, he is, and will continue to figure out how use age to compliment his game.  The act of aging, the very thing that is the enemy to most NBA players entering their mid 30′s, may have been something that Nowitzki embraced a long time ago.  Maybe age was Dirk’s best friend all along, as he allowed it to shape and form his game to the point where he was playing “the best basketball of his career”.

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* The day after this column was written, news broke about swelling in Dirk’s knee and now it looks like surgery could be a possibility.  This would seem to hurt a weaker man’s case.  I stand by the article and I still believe that Dirk will age gracefully into the night…. with our without his knees.

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