James Harden’s Foot Locker Commercial, Short Memories, And The End of an NBA Era

You know the commercial with James Harden, Charles Barkley and Scottie Pippen. You love that commercial. Guest writer Tim Faklis (@timfaklis) noticed that the commercial skipped a generation of NBA greats, though, and it reminded him that in the NBA, time waits for no superstar. Enjoy!

If you’ve watched any sports-related TV over the past month or so, odds are good that you’ve seen this commercial.

If you somehow haven’t seen it, it’s a pretty great one. James Harden asks for advice from Hall of Famer Charles Barkley, who eventually brings Scottie Pippen into the conversation.

The ultimate lesson? Keep a short memory, to keep your mind focused on the present.

I love this commercial. It brings back some of the greats from my childhood – the ones who were in the latter stages of their careers when I started to begin my obsession with basketball. Still, I have one small problem with the commercial, and it has everything to do with when I grew up.

The commercial skipped an era.

This was likely intentional. They likely wanted Hall of Famers instead of future Hall of Famers. Chuck is the dude from TNT, and Scottie Pippen was able to make a Bulls/Michael Jordan joke. It was perfect for just about everyone.

Still, I couldn’t get past the natural order of events. The strange and saddening part of growing up and watching basketball is watching some of your childhood favorites start to fizzle out, and eventually retire. The very first group, the ones that were the vets when Kobe and C-Webb were youngsters, are all gone. When James Harden was drafted in 2009, guys like Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Steve Nash, and Tracy McGrady were the “old guys”. The list goes on, too; while some were closer to their final exit than others, that generation was reaching its basketball end. The future Hall of Famers who got their careers started in the early-to-mid 1990s were, and are the journeyed veterans of the league, the superstars that James Harden was drafted to play alongside and those he respected as both peers and predecessors.

That group, the one I grew up on, the ones that guys like James Harden looked up to as a kid and eventually got to play with, is down to just eight active players (with active being a relative term in a couple cases):

Paul Pierce ( drafted in 1996)
Ray Allen (1996)
Dirk Nowitzki (1998)
Tim Duncan (1997)
Kevin Garnett (1995)
Kobe Bryant (1996)
Steve Nash (1996)
Vince Carter (1998)

So many of their peers have had to hang it up. Tracy McGrady’s injuries caught up with him. So did Penny Hardaway. Shaquille O’Neal’s massive body managed an incredible 19 years in the league, but eventually couldn’t do it anymore. Allen Iverson…well, yeah.

It’s a strange feeling for a fan, seeing a group of once-great players, players I grew up idolizing, slowing down, playing less, and taking on different roles for their teams. It’s weird seeing their names hit the news headlines because they have “decided not to retire.”

This was the era I — and many of us — grew up on. It’s the last era of basketball that remembers the NBA on NBC. It’s the last era that played against Jordan….on the Bulls. It’s the last era that featured multiple back-to-the basket big men as central players. It’s the last era that remembers the original boom of prominent shoot-first point guards. I grew up in Minnesota, and was a kid when Kevin Garnett was finding his way in the NBA. Now he’s in Brooklyn, and will likely play in his last year in the NBA basketball, mainly as a role player/mentor. It’s safe to say Celtics fans are having the same feelings run through their head when they watch Paul Pierce, who’s made his way to Washington to continue his late-career productivity but isn’t the player he once was.

Of the players remaining, only Dirk Nowitzki played like an All-Star last year. It’s assumed that 6 of those 8 would be starters, if healthy, but only 3 of those 6 played over 60 games. Only Dirk Nowitzki played over 30 minutes per game. In short, Dirk’s a beast, but Father Time catches up to everyone.

It’s weird to hear things about guys like Dwyane Wade “aging” when guys like Garnett, Kobe and Nash are still around. I remember vividly when Wade was drafted, and remember watching the Heat at the Target Center in his rookie year. I remember when he was an up-and-comer. It’s much more vivid in my memory banks than the early stages of guys I grew up on.

There was nothing wrong with the commercial James Harden, Charles Barkley and Scottie Pippen were part of. In fact, it’s a great commercial. Still, it forces me to remember that, for better and for worse, I’m not a kid anymore, and neither are they. Time marches on, and the generations keep coming in the NBA.

Hardwood Paroxysm