Andrew Luck’s decision to retire from the NFL at age 29 with tens of millions of dollars on the table continues to draw a mix of astonishment and understanding around the American sports landscape. The NBA does not have a serious record of early choice retirements probably because basketball does not do to the body what football does. There are catastrophic injuries in the NBA, and there are plenty of retired basketball players who limp around prematurely. But CTE isn’t a major concern, and financially secure veteran basketball players aren’t being asked to be chased and crushed by 300-pound godlings 17 times a year. It’s different.
But what if the NBA had an Andrew Luck? Who would fit the bill?
Blake Griffin is the most apt current comparison. Griffin is 30, has been highly decorated (five All-NBA nods, Rookie of the Year), was one seen as a franchise’s cornerstone a savior (and heck, that might still apply after he’s been traded to Detroit), and has had some injuries. Like Luck (who got an architecture degree from Stanford), Griffin has outside interests (comedy and acting, in his case). Luck doesn’t need football, and Griffin doesn’t need basketball. Retiring with $100 million left on his contract would be an enormous shocker. What would the Pistons do? How would we talk about it? How would we react? It’s worth thinking about all of things in the context of the NFL conversation around Luck, which is a mix of sympathetic (former and current players, most of the media) and enraged (some fans, some media).
Kevin Love is in a similar boat and could be analogous due to injuries and interests, though Love was never really a savior or centerpiece like Luck or Griffin. DeMar DeRozan just turned 30 and doesn’t have a huge long-term contract lined up, but he could be a match though there’s not much injury history there. What about Kyrie Irving?
Interestingly, the NBA did have an early choice retirement this summer — Darren Collison retired at age 32 to focus on faith and family. He might have been in line for a multi-year contract worth eight figures annually, or something close. Even that was a shocker, and Collison is a fringe starter, not a superstar.
Right now, the star early choice retirement doesn’t seem to be hitting the NBA. As salaries continue to explode, it’s worth wondering if or when it might touch the league, and how that will impact how teams make decisions on how to build.
There are no heroes
There’s an arrest warrant out for DeMarcus Cousins after TMZ published audio recordings of Cousins allegedly threatening to kill his son’s mother amid an argument.
We don’t know anyone, really. Sometimes not even the people closest to us, and definitely not professional athletes or celebrities, who the media, and thus the fans, mostly see in sound bites and highlights. The best we can say is that So-and-So Seems Nice or This Is How So-and-So Has Treated Me In The Past or There Have Not Been Reports or Rumors of So-and-So Behaving Badly. You don’t know anyone.
The people who said Cousins was a future criminal when he entered the NBA with an on-court temper didn’t know him. The people like me who said Cousins’ on-court anger was misunderstood didn’t know him. We don’t know any of these people, really. It’s poisonous to assume the worst and naive to assume the best. The solution is probably to not get too invested in fandom of individuals or institutions or anything too deeply. Is this another sad fact of humanity, that we must keep affection for all but those most intimate to us (and sometimes even them) at arm’s length? I guess so.
I wish for safety, sanity, health (physical and mental), and atonement for everyone involved.
A beautiful and timely REWINDER from Jiazhen Zhang and Seth Rosenthal on Team USA’s disastrous loss to Yugoslavia in the 2002 FIBA World Championship quarterfinal. Seem a little relevant right about now, does it? HMM?
Speaking of the World Cup, I ranked all 53 NBA players expected to play in the tournament. Even Mason Plumlee and Frank Ntilikina. The World Cup begins in a few hours. All games available on ESPN+ in the States.
Ricky O’Donnell reviewed the tape and concludes that LaMelo Ball is indeed a top-five draft prospect.
Michael Pina on the Celtics taking small ball to the extreme.
The WNBA playoffs are coming up in a couple of weeks. The league’s playoff format is going to screw over three of the best five teams. Welp!
Wilson Chandler got hit with a 25-game suspension for PEDs. Surely this will have no impact on the rumors the Nets will bring in Carmelo Anthony ...
Love Kansas basketball? Streak Talk is the newsletter for you.
Nathaniel Friedman is right about Shaquille O’Neal’s basketball legacy being much more impressive in context than that of Kobe Bryant. But I think he’s wrong about only “ardent dead-enders” rejecting how Kobe’s legacy has been framed. He’s not in the Hall of Fame yet. His legacy remains an open debate. And really, these fights never end. We’re still talking about Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain even though 90 percent of those of us in The Discourse weren’t there in the ‘50s and ‘60s. There is no dead end, only the glory of being right about the one of the modern NBA’s false gods. Keep up the fight, comrades.
And finally: athletes whose names are complete sentences.
Be excellent to each other.