Jeff Pearlman

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Wade, Nowitzki and retirement

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By now we all know Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki have concluded their NBA careers, joining the list of tall, athletic men who have wrapped up taking full advantage of their size, speed, power.

And, truly, I’m happy for both guys. They’ve been unique ambassadors for the NBA during one of its true growth periods, and Wade and Nowitzki walk off into the sunset with sterling reputations as ambassadors and superstars.

That said …

We do this thing in sports, where we—as a people—decide it’s time for our favorites to hang up their shoes. Just last week Charles Barkley wrote a column for Sports Illustrated, urging Dirk to acknowledge his fading skills and move on in life. And, well, I get it. Honestly, I do. It’s not fun for us, seeing a guy who used to run a 4.3 40 en route to 1,700 yards and 15 touchdown now struggle to hit the hole. I didn’t enjoy Ronnie Lott, Jet, or John Lynch, Bronco. I could have certainly survived minus Michael Jordan, Wizard, or Steve Carlton, Indian. The sporting universe was blessed by Willie Mays—but not by Willie Mays, Met. It’s the whole Fat Elvis thing. We watch, but no longer because it’s appealing. We watch to cringe during the fall.

Well, fuck that.

Seriously. Fuck that.

If Dirk Nowitzki decides, two days from now, to un-retire and join the Knicks—bravo. If he wants to play five more years, and a team desires his services, let him play five more years. Let him average 4.2 points per game, let him shoot 28 percent from the field, let him limp down the court—while being paid millions of dollars, flying charter, hanging with his close pals and staying in five-star hotels across America. I mean, why do we beg these guys to leave, when what they experience is so extraordinary?

Before long (really, starting now), Wade and Nowitzki will find themselves telling the same ol’ glory days tales all ex-jocks are retired to spin. They’ll be at the Rotary, at the 4H, at the Chamber of Commerce, at the Apple convention, at the Microsoft convention, at the Google convention. Dirk, what was it like playing against KG?

“Well, I remember this one time …”

“Well, I remember this one time …”

“Well, I remember this one time …”

“Well, I remember this one time …”

“Well, I remember this one time …”

“Well, I remember this one time …”

This is what life is for the ex-superstar. And while it can be lucrative, it’s also mind-numbingly dull and painful. It’s the saga of the man/woman bring told it’s time to move on.

Then, upon moving on, they wonder why they moved on.

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life