Candace Buckner: Age isn't everything, especially to athletes

Candace Buckner: Commentary

By Candace Buckner, Columbian staff writer

Published:

 
photoCandace Buckner

Hanging around the Portland Trail Blazers can make anyone feel ancient.

Some of the players are so young, you'd think that the roster should be sponsored by Similac.

For instance, take rookie center Meyers Leonard who only a few months back reached the legal drinking age. I've got VHS tapes older than this kid.

And Leonard isn't the only pup around the locker room. Damian Lillard lives with his mother. Nolan Smith wears a Spider-Man backpack. And Will Barton doesn't know where the phrase "show me the money!" originates.

The majority of these pros were born in the late 80s and early 90s, so they never knew that rapper L.L. Cool J once took a muscle-bound man and put his face in the sand. No, in their world, they only recognize L.L. as that guy from that cop show who now provides a truly unfortunate verse on the country tune, "Accidental Racist." 

Got to feel for these kids. What a sad, sad world they live in.

Oh, and it gets worse for the young fellas because these days, I must admit, it's awesome to be old.

Derek Fisher, Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant from the 1996 NBA draft class are still alive and kicking. And for those of us who must saturate our bodies in Bengay after just a single game of '21,' we had to take some vindictive pleasure on Wednesday night while watching ol' school rule the new jacks. Besides scoring an all-time Rose Garden opponent high at 47 points, the 34-year-old Bryant blocked Barton, 12 years his junior, not once, but twice at the rim.

Take that, you Beliebers!

And when former UCLA coach Ben Howland confirms several weeks before the start of March Madness that freshman standout Shabazz Muhammad would declare for the NBA draft, you had to feel good watching old-as-dirt senior Peyton Siva raise the NCAA championship trophy on Monday night.

Although Siva should learn that direct messages on Twitter can come back to haunt you, he's a savvy veteran by most standards. At 22 years old, Siva holds the banner for a dying breed in men's college basketball: the student athlete who stays all four years. Only dinosaurs and the Yellow Pages are more antiquated entities.

Also, boxer Bernard Hopkins probably still listens to vinyl records — and not in an ironic, hipster kind of way either — but can still pounce on a whippersnapper. On Wednesday, the 48-year-old Hopkins announced plans to fight 29-year-old Karo Murat for the light heavyweight title. Only two years away from getting hunted down by the AARP, and Hopkins is still tracking down challengers.

"From what I've seen of Murat, he's a durable guy and a 'B' fighter, but I have to look at him like he's an 'A' fighter," Hopkins said in an interview with ESPN.com. "He's rough and tough, so you got to come up with a game plan, especially at age 48. People want to tune in and see, 'Is tonight the night Bernard Hopkins gets old?' "

Well, hate to break it you, but he's already old. Still, boxing fans should tune in to rejoice as Hopkins KO's Father Time.

That's the best thing about these old heads. An athletic career can only last for so long. And when a knee snaps or an ankle breaks, that short window can close in a moment's time.

So when Kurt Thomas needs to soak his 40-year-old feet in tubs of ice after games with the New York Knicks, I admire him. Even after the news breaks on Thursday that the Knicks will soon release the 18-year-veteran, I still applaud him.

Thomas. Hopkins. The NBA Class of '96. Jamie Moyer, the lefty pitcher who at 50 won't rule out a Major League Baseball comeback. And Kimiko Date-Krumm, who this year became the oldest woman ever to advance at the Australian Open at 42 years young.

These folks make growing older feel much better.

Candace Buckner cover the Portland Trail Blazers for The Columbian. She can be reached at 360-735-4528, candace.buckner@columbian.com or follow her Twitter handle @Blazerbanter