Originally Published: June 19, 2001 7:15 p.m.
There are times when I feel like the loneliest man on the nation's loneliest island.
Prescott's lone NBA fan. A guy with about as many local NBA-loving friends as John Wooden has fire-breathing enemies.
I want to talk about Darius Miles, but the water cooler is alive with the sounds of George Mikan. That's on a good day.
I'm not sure if the apathy is because so many people can't relate to the league's hip-hop generation, or because there's no room for a seniors tour in a sport like basketball.
But, like it or not, the just-finished 2001 playoffs served as a starting point for the league's renaissance, and hopefully an ending point to any thought of a Generation Ex – as in Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Dennis Rodman, Patrick Ewing and anyone with a pulse and a pair of Pumas.
In the midst of one of the NBA Final games last week, the priceless Peter Vescey broke into the coverage with news that Jordan was working out one-on-one with some younger NBA players.
Just before the Finals tipped off, a bogus story broke that MJ would play with the Wizards' summer league team in Boston.
There was a time when the league's post-Jordan syndrome was enough to make such stories worthwhile. After all, no sport is sold by individualism like basketball. And when individuals like Jordan and Barkley are lost a slight hangover is bound to follow.
But it's time to crank the party back up without a silly Farewell Tour from Jordan and his version of the Rat Pack.
Whether it's the Lakers' shot at a dynasty; the incredible shootout between Allen Iverson and Vince Carter; the legitimate comparison between Kobe Bryant and Jordan; the outmanned, yet gutsy 76ers or Shaquille O'Neal maturing into one of the league's all-time great centers ... the 2001 playoffs are proof positive that the NBA has regained its footing.
At least until Iverson records another rap album.
Even though the Final series was basically a mismatch, the Game 2 TV ratings were the highest in five years. And the Finals introduced America to some of the most engaging, if not interesting personalities in pro sports.
Close your eyes and listen to Bryant and you would swear you're hearing Jordan. Open your eyes and watch him play and there isn't much difference either.
Even the tattooed Iverson won over some fans with his playground grit, and while O'Neal's bull-in-a-China-closet approach has never been my favorite, a pair of championships certainly put him among the all-time elite big men.
Then there's young players like Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Ray Allen, Baron Davis, Dirk Nowitzki, Lamar Odom, Shawn Marion and ... yes, even the Los Angeles Clippers, who you'll probably be seeing in the postseason in 2002.
Maybe I'm just not the sentimental type. But personally I would rather watch a team of 21-year-old Clippers than a plodding group of 39-year-old codgers.
Especially when the latter already had its 15 years of fame.