Over a decade and a half after Jason Kidd was named the NBA’s Rookie of the Year as a member of the Dallas Mavericks, he looks to add one last line to his resume tonight wearing the jersey of the team who drafted him. In a series of thrilling finishes, endless story-lines, and a star-studded cast lead by Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, and Dirk Nowitzki, Kidd’s quest to include that final piece of jewelry in his Hall of Fame treasure chest is easy to overlook.
Dwayne Wade and LeBron James have become the NBA’s equivalent to the Kardashians; every move analyzed, every shot charted, and every cough video-taped. If those two and everything Heatles haven’t dominated the constant news cycles, the story is then of Dirk and how he’s played his way onto the list of all-time greats in this post-season despite flu-like symptoms and busted digit. Compelling off-court stories to be sure, coupled with games that couldn’t be more entertaining.
When we look back at this Finals Series though, should Dallas prevail tonight, what may be equally compelling is the story of Jason Kidd and his quest for an NBA championship. If he wins that elusive ring tonight, I believe he cements himself as the greatest PG in the NBA over the last 30 years not named Magic Johnson. He’d have a ring to counter to two won by Isiah, as many as Gary Payton, one more than Stockton, and also one more than it appears Steve Nash will ever secure as well.
I’m not comfortable comparing Kidd to guys like Bob Cousy and Oscar Robertson who I never saw play, or else I might argue a ring could put Kidd atop the list of greatest Point Guards ever. He came as close as anybody since the Big-O to averaging a triple-double, though he never scored like Robertson did. At least that’s what I’ve heard, I wasn’t alive to see Oscar play.
But I have watched every season of Jason Kidd’s NBA career since he left Cal as a sophomore back in the early 90s. In that period of time specifically, I can say confidently that he was the greatest PG I’ve ever seen play in the Association. Nobody who played the PG position was better at doing so than Jason Kidd was in his prime. He made players like Richard Jefferson look like All Stars, he made guys like Mikki Moore money he never should have got, and all the while he embodied the true essence of what it means to be a Point Guard.
When the Nets were his team he made it to the Finals twice, and now that he’s back in Dallas on Dirk’s he’s providing a calming influence these Mavs never seemed to demonstrate before. Kidd might be 38, but this is far from a Karl Malone as a LA Laker experiment. He’s giving Dallas 35 minutes per game over their 20 post-seasons contests so far, averaging 9 points, 7 assists, and 5 rebounds per night as the starting PG. If Dallas were to clinch the NBA Title tonight Kidd won’t be the reason, but he certainly would be a reason.
It would be a fitting end for a career I was first introduced to when he knocked my favorite player of all time out of the NCAA Tournament forever. I can still remember the Sports Illustrated cover when Kidd’s Cal team eliminated Bobby Hurley’s Duke Bluedevils from the NCAA Tournament that year reading: “Changing of the Guard”. It was with that win eighteen years ago that Jason Kidd first emerged on the national scene as an elite level PG. With a win tonight, he could very well find himself at the top of that list forever.