It's easy to sit around like an old fart and complain about how great All-Star games used to be. In some ways, the old farts are right. There were NBA All-Star games in the '80s and '90s where the number of future Hall of Famers numbered in the mid-teens. No offense to the Jerry Stackhouse, Anthony Davis, Michael Finley and Stephon Marbury-led squads of the early 2000s, but they just don't stack up.
Still, today's NBA is a bit different. Looking at the rosters for both the Eastern and Western Conferences, it is easy to imagine as many as six or seven Hall selections just among the starters. LeBron James, Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant are three of the best from any era, and it's hard to imagine a future where Chris Paul, Kevin Durant and Dwight Howard aren't in the conversation.
But, typically, the NBA likes to spread the wealth and the game features players heading into their twilight, in their prime and on the come.
The "Old" Timers Bryant and Garnett, both locks for the Hall, will appear in yet another All-Star game -- they have 30 selections between them. They will be joined by a surprising but deserving reserve selection, Tim Duncan, who is in the conversation as the best ever at power forward with guys like Karl Malone and Kevin McHale.
It's weird to think of Bryant as an "old timer" considering he's still in his early 30s, but he entered the NBA directly from high school and has been in the league for 16 years. But Duncan and Garnett certainly qualify and while Duncan is deserving on merit, Garnett is in on the fan vote. In Their Prime Ultimately, this game is for the guys in the heart of their careers, the ones we see on magazine covers and commercials. The 2013 edition of the game is loaded with names like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmello Anthony (who may sit out due to an elbow injury), Chris Bosh, Tyson Chandler, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, LaMarcus Aldridge and a few players still at the tops of their games but over 30 like Tony Parker, Dwyane Wade, Zach Randolph and David Lee.
The Durant-James matchup is about as good as it gets. It can and should be one of the great rivalries in the NBA for the next ten years in the All-Star game and out. But there are others in this category that make plenty of noise on their own. In the case of Howard and Anthony, it's not always good and it's not always on the court. But when you look at players like Paul, one of the best pure point guards to step on the hardwood in years, and LaMarcus Aldridge, a player finally becoming the perennial All-Star many thought he would be when he was drafted out of the University of Texas, it's easy to see how much talent will be on display come Sunday.
Young Whipper Snappers What often makes NBA All-Star games fun is the emerging talent. This year is no exception. For the huge loss felt in Cleveland when James made his "Decision," the hole seems to have been ably filled by young guard Kyrie Irving, who is lighting up the East with more than 25 points per game. Obviously, here in Houston, we have our own first-timer in James Harden, who has blown up in his first year as a starter and team leader.
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There's also Russell Westbrook, Harden's former running mate in OKC, who is one of the deadliest ball handlers in the league. Finally, there's Brook Lopez, a.k.a. the guy who isn't Dwight Howard. Brooklyn appears to be doing just fine with him.
So, all you grumpy old men who think the game sucks, you better recognize that this year's NBA All-Star team is loaded with serious talent of the all-time variety.