Jason Kidd won’t be remembered as a charismatic superstar. There are some minor aspects of his first-ballot career that you could find mildly entertaining/titillating. For instance, the fact that cats used to call him ’Ason, because he had no J; then late in his career, he morphed into somewhat of a marksman. Or that he used to spit hot fire. Peep him:
Or you might remember that his first two years in the NBA featured him as part of Dallas’ The Three Js, a young trio – along with Jimmy Jackson and Jamal Mashburn – that could have done damage, had Jason and Jimmy not been beefin’ over Toni Braxton and who was gonna get that thang. This led to Kidd eventually demanding a trade and ending up in Phoenix, where he rocked this blond ’fro .
Kidd retired Monday, ending a 19-year career during which he was first team All-NBA six times in a row, a 10-time All Star, made All-Defense nine times, was a close runner-up to Tim Duncan in the 2002 MVP voting, led the New Jersey Nets to back-to-back Finals (’02 and ’03), has the third most triple-doubles (107) in NBA history and was the veteran orchestrator for Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs’ 2010 championship. However, the hallmark of his career – other than the blond ’fro – is that, with all due respect to Gary Payton and later Steve Nash, Jason Kidd was the greatest point guard of his generation.
I was a big-time high school recruiting geek in my teenage and pre-teen years. Coming into that 1992 college season, I kept hearing about this big point guard that might be the best seen at that position since Magic Johnson or Isiah Thomas. But why’d dude go to Cal, of all schools? I mean, I know he’s from Oakland, but still… Arizona and UCLA were the schools for top-flight point guards out West. It took me a while to grow to like Kidd’s game. In hindsight, it was probably a little too nuanced for me, at the time. His handle wasn’t the sickest, his shot was ugly and he did this thing where he would always pass the ball at the right time on the break, instead of holding on to it for a split second more to increase the difficulty. In what would be his signature move, he was most lethal grabbing a board or an outlet pass and breaking OUT down the court in a Tasmanian blur. Few guards in the history of the game were able to finish better at the rim. He was a legit 6´4 and physical, with a constant motor.
Up to that point, my favorite college point guards had been Sherman Douglas, Chris Jackson, Gary Payton, Kenny Anderson and Jalen Rose. Sherm’ threw oops and played with D.C.-flair; Jackson was like Pistol Pete, if Pistol Pete could dribble-drive like Isiah and had range like World B. Free; GP – Kidd’s big homie – was a ball-hawking, sneering, cocky monster; Kenny Anderson was a virtuoso that would shame your favorite street-baller of all time; and Jalen was the Fab Five’s swag engine. There was something very vanilla about Kidd’s game that took me years to appreciate. He was very much like Tim Duncan in that way.
He was also like Duncan’s perimeter counterpart in that, if Kidd was running your show, it basically guaranteed you a spot in the playoffs. Kidd led the Suns to the playoffs in 1997 and he didn’t miss the postseason for the rest of his career. Although the East was notoriously bad in the early half of the ’00s, it’s still a testament to Kidd’s masterful point guard play that he took the Nets to back-to-back Finals. Kenyon Martin, Kerry Kittles and Richard Jefferson were never as good as they were when they played with J-Kidd.
Over the final few seasons, Kidd has morphed into the league’s Yoda. He was the Knicks’ sage and steadying hand. His shot left him in the 2013 postseason, but, other than salty Knicks fans, no one will remember that embarrassing moment in the twilight of his twilight. At his peak, he was as dynamic a guard as we’ve ever seen. He was at once a destructive defensive force (constant ball pressure among the greatest rebounding guards ever) and a constructive maestro – unselfish, but rarely to a fault. He will be missed.