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In NBA, The Old Guys Get Paid

Filed by KOSU News in Business.
July 7, 2012

Two NBA stars who are certainly past their primes and almost over the hill signed huge new contracts this week.

Make no mistake, Kevin Garnett and Steve Nash are still world-class basketball players. But it’s been eight years since Garnett won his Most Valuable Player award, and it’s been six years since Nash won back-to-back MVPs. Garnett is 36 years old, and Nash is 38.

“At 38, you’re an active senior in NBA terms,” sports writer Dave Zirin of The Nation magazine says. “You might as well be paying shuffleboard.”

Instead, Nash will be playing point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers. He signed a three-year deal worth $27 million. And Garnett will still anchor the Boston Celtics’ defense next year. He signed a three-year deal worth $34 million.

Zirin spoke with weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz about how Nash can still help the Lakers contend for an NBA championship, how veteran point guard Jason Kidd also signed a new deal, and why there’s been a paradigm shift to offer larger contracts to older players.

Interview Highlights

On 38-year-old Nash going to the Lakers

“Still last year, he averaged 12.5 points, 10.7 assists. Remarkably for a point guard, he shot 53 percent from the field, so people definitely think he still has something left in the tank. But he was offered a bigger contract, actually, to go to the Toronto Raptors. Steve Nash, of course, is Canadian. That would’ve been the career victory lap — to end by going to Toronto. But clearly, he’s thinking much more in line of, how do I get a championship ring before I retire?”

On bigger contracts for older players

“The question that comes up, I think, is why? Why has there been this paradigm shift in the NBA, which is very recent, of offering these large contracts to older players? I think, on one hand, you have to look at advances in training, particularly strength training. There have been huge advances. People like (Lakers star player) Kobe Bryant have gone overseas to Europe for experimental treatments that haven’t even been cleared in the United States. They’re not illegal. I want to be very clear about that. But they are risky treatments.

“That is part of it — science and technology. But I think another thing that we have to recognize is the NBA lockout, which of course occurred last year and limited this current season, was supposed to be done to limit the sort of financial anarchy in the NBA, which is huge money, guaranteed money of players with no way to get out of those contracts. I think what you’re seeing is there are still loopholes to exercise financial anarchy in front offices in the NBA.”

On ‘Linsanity,’ and New York Knicks’ Jeremy Lin’s new contract

“Four years, $29 million dollars – when you consider that he only played 32 games this past season, it is quite a statement, particularly since he had injury troubles at the end of the year. The issue is that Jeremy Lin is like having a license to make money. If Jeremy Lin is on your team, you will be in the black this coming season. He plays with a sort of flash that is in short supply in the NBA…But without question, given that the NBA has a huge market in China, like I said – a license to make money if you have Jeremy Lin (who’s Asian-American).” [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

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