The Most Important NBA JAM: Tournament Edition News of the Year

Last Saturday, in a TNT playoff pregame segment for the ages, Grant Hill announced the end of his 19-year NBA career. Unfortunately, it’s one that will be remembered for what it wasn’t (a continuation of one of the most promising careers in NBA history) than what it really was (10+ years of injuries that almost healed before compounding).

Grant Hill came of age as a player when I was at the perfect moment in my life to deify professional athletes and there’s something about basketball in the ’90s that forced fans to develop personal and intimate one-way relationships with pros they liked. It was an age of over-decoration and there was an NBA personality for every accessory in my life. I borderline worshipped Reggie Miller and the Pacers, but I had Anfernee Hardaway (and Lil Penny) posters on my walls. I wore a Shawn Kemp jersey to school when it was warm and an Orlando Magic Starter jacket. My boy scout pinewood derby car was painted in Charlotte Hornets colors.

It's not even embarrassing, this is how I want to cheer for NBA players.

It’s not even embarrassing, this is how I want to cheer for NBA players.

I have drawers and bins full of all of my favorite NBA paraphernalia that I can’t make myself throw away because that’s who I was for a long time. And somewhere in that pile of my junior high persona is a stack of about 20 Grant Hill Sprite cans, unopened so they’d maintain their value. They were a treasure of mine because Grant was one of the first players I really connected with. I honestly didn’t care about him much for the last half of his career, but there’s still a part of my basketball fandom that is obsessed with 1996 Grant Hill and what he could be.

Today’s Grant Hill is a prototypical player for the Association to turn into an announcer someday soon. He should replace Shaq on the commentary circuit as early as next season.

Yesterday, Jason Kidd followed suit and announced his own retirement.

Jason Kept stayed young forever. For both of us.

Jason Kept stayed young forever. For both of us.

Sure, Kidd wasn’t offering much to the Knicks anymore, but he still played solid rotation minutes for a team that was the #2 seed in the East this year. More importantly, he was the last man getting regular minutes from the outstanding mid-’90s NBA cast that made me love basketball. He was the last line of defense against and an entirely new generation of players that I feel a lot less passionate about. Kidd was the one link to the golden days that ’90s kids have left. As he finishes a career that I’d put as the fourth-best ever for a point guard, Jason Kidd should be remembered as a fine basketball player and an even finer generational guardsman.

But there’s a bigger story here: The retirement of Grant Hill and Jason Kidd means we’re officially out of NBA JAM: Tournament Edition players on active NBA rosters. And it’s the most important moment of the 1994-1995 video game basketball season that happens in 2013.

This is a story we’ve been monitoring for a while, but it seems like a bit of harsh reality to lose both heralded NBA JAM: TE players retire in a span of only three days. At this point, the only thing I can say for sure about the NBA is that Jason Kidd definitely waited for Grant Hill to bow out so he could hold the Last Jammer Standing belt.

The NBA is in a new JAM-less era and I guess I’ll just have to get used to it.

I’d like to tip my hat to Grant Hill and Jason Kidd for whatever percentage of my junior high formative years they are owed. Thank you both for everything.