Praising NBA Longevity

In the world of sports, there has been this rise in fascination with player longevity.

We hear all the time about players who have had long lasting careers in their respective sport. Then there are those who are still continuing their careers in pursuit of the glory that comes with being in their respective league for an unprecedented amount of time.

In the NFL there’s Peyton Manning who played for 17 years and won two Super Bowls and Tom Brady who claimed championship number seven in year 21 at 43 years old and is still trucking on. In the NBA we had guys like Kobe Bryant played all 20 years for the Purple and Gold. Vince Carter, who most recently retired, played 22 years in the NBA which is the longest in league history. Then there’s LeBron James coming off of an NBA title for the Lakers and is still playing at an MVP level in year 18.

Longevity in sports is definitely something that should be celebrated and commended as these guys lay it out on the line year after year in pursuit of that illustrious championship. So, with that, this week’s Hoopers of the Week are two wily veterans in the game putting on a show as they represent all their fellow old heads in what has become a young man’s NBA. This week’s Hoopers of the Week are Jimmy Butler in the Eastern Conference and Carmelo Anthony in the Western Conference.

Jimmy Butler

Although Jimmy Butler is only in his 10th season, he is definitely an old soul in the NBA.

Known to be a mentor-like figure for young guys like Joel Embiid, Bam Adebayo, and Tyler Herro, Butler has really shown his influence on the next generation of NBA basketball. Bam Adebayo ascended to All-Star status in only his third season. Herro became a rookie phenom in the NBA Playoffs last season on Miami’s run to the 2020 NBA Finals. And now Joel Embiid is looking like a potential front runner for league MVP this season. But although he has helped in influencing greater work ethic and improved play by some of the league’s rising stars, Butler has not lost a single step in the process.

After struggling with Covid-19 symptoms throughout the beginning the season, Butler has come back as a man on a mission. In only his second week back, he put up a triple-double and two near triple-doubles as the Heat 2-1 for the week. 26 points, nine assists and eight rebounds against the New York Knicks in a win to kick off the week. 27 points, ten assists and ten rebounds against the Houston Rockets to push the Heat’s winning streak to four straight wins. Then unfortunately Miami ran up against the top seeded Utah Jazz, but he did put up 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists in the tough 112-94 loss to snap the winning streak.

Miami was coming off of five straight losses before Butler came back and they have gone 5-3 since his return. Talk about instilling confidence in your team! The Miami Heat of course want to get another shot at the title after last season’s disappointing finish in the Finals. We all know that Jimmy Butler has a lot to do with how far the Heat can go because this team goes as Jimmy Buckets goes. The Heat might be 9th in the East for now, but do not be surprised if they come out of the All-Star break on fire with Tyler Herro back healthy and Butler at the helm.

Carmelo Anthony

This Old Soul is a member of that illustrious 2003 NBA Draft alongside superstars such LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh. In the 17 years we have gotten to see Anthony play in the league, we have seen many him go through many different transitions in his career.

There was Nuggets Melo, the rookie phenom out of Syracuse who was second in the Rookie of the Year race despite arguably having a better rookie season than LeBron James. There was Knicks Melo who put the whole city of New York on his back as he scratched and clawed to bring relevancy back to Knicks basketball. Then there are his short stints with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets. These were what some would call his “humbling years.” Two tough seasons acting as the third option for the first time in his career as he played alongside established young superstars like James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and Paul George. Now we get to see Second Chance Melo in Portland where he has accepted his role as a microwave scorer and clutch rotational player off the bench Trailblazers.

This past week, Melo went on a tear for three straight 20+ point games as Portland went 3-0 including a big win over the red-hot Philadelphia 76ers. In the first game of the week, he put up 23 points and three rebounds while shooting 5-of-9 from three in 27 minutes against the Orlando Magic. Then in the game against Philly, he had 24 points and two rebounds while shooting 4-of-5 from three in 26 minutes. In that game, 17 of his 24 points came in the 4th quarter so you know Clutch Bucket Melo was in full effect! And to cap off the week he had 23 points, two rebounds, a block, and a steal in a 129-110 blowout win against the Cleveland Cavaliers while only playing 20 minutes.

With CJ McCollum out, Anthony has really been asked to shoulder a lot more of the scoring load behind Damian Lillard as a Lou Williams-like role player for Portland. He showed signs last season he could be a team player and thrive in this new role, especially in their Bubble run to get in the playoffs. But this season he is shooting 39.3% from three which is his best since the 2013-14 season and he seems to have truly found a home with Portland to close out his career.

Who knows, maybe the Trail Blazers could make a miraculous postseason run like the Denver Nuggets and the Miami Heat last season. It would not surprise me one bit when you consider they may possibly get McCollum back from injury, they have an MVP candidate in Lillard leading the charge, and they have a bona fide Hall of Famer in Melo coming up big for them when it counts off the bench.

#6thManMelo. You heard it here first!