As you get older, you pull for older athletes. I don’t pull for all of them. I’ve never been a fan of Oklahoma City’s Carmelo Anthony. The game slows down when he touches the ball.
Hey, Anthony has the ball, I’m making a beer run, anybody want anything? I don’t think you can win with him.
I like young athletes, too. The Philadelphia 76ers have two of them, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, who are so effective and so entertaining. Simmons sees the court brilliantly, and he’s only 21. Imagine him when he acquires a jump shot.
When the old guys suddenly play young, the result is stunning. Earl Monroe is my favorite all-time basketball player. I was in New York one weekend, asked for a credential and covered a game that featured another one of my favorite players, the Philadelphia 76ers’ Julius Erving.
Earl the Pearl was almost finished. This was the home stretch, and he was merely hanging on. But in the first quarter, if I remember correctly, he scored 16 points for the hometown Knicks. He would not score again. Erving scored plenty. He finished with 33. But for one quarter, I got to see Earl again be the Pearl.
On Monday night, I got to see Dwyane Wade again be Dwyane Wade. Wade is 36, almost old enough to play safety for the Carolina Panthers.
In 2014, the Miami Heat swept the Charlotte Hornets in the playoffs. The Heat featured LeBron James, Wade and Chris Bosh. Bosh and James are gone, but Wade returned. On Monday night, his legs did.
In game two of Miami’s series with Philadelphia, Wade played 26 minutes and scored 28 points.
The 76ers had beaten the Heat by 27 in Philadelphia in game one. Miami beat the 76ers by 10 there in game two.
Wade was no high-flying leaper, although he did turn in a rudimentary dunk. His energy was parsed. What the Heat required, he provided.
After the 76ers made a move late, Wade was summoned from the bench. He hit a shot, threw a sharp pass to a cutter that led to a basket, and stole the ball. Simmons, the 76ers’ star, is 6-10. Wade faded and hit a jump shot over him.
Regardless of sport, there are older athletes we admire. They throw junk off the mound and set a hitter up so that their rare fastball will look faster. They run a pattern so precise you could replicate it with a ruler and dive to catch a pass. After minutes of inactivity, they land a three-punch combination, more if you’re Roy Jones Jr., and knock their opponent down and out.
After more than three decades in the press box, it’s difficult for me to cheer. I was home and cheering internally Monday. But when Wade slapped the ball away, sprinted down court and was rewarded with a pass that set up a dunk, I got off the sofa and roared. Wade earned it.