By Richard Chandler Burroughs
Throwback. Old School. 70’s. 80’s. 90’s. Retro. Call it what you want but contemporary times are in an endless love affair with the past. I’m not judging that love affair, even in its most tawdry and confusing manifestations (Rick Ross’ ode to MC Hammer not withstanding) and in fact, I think it has a certain homely quality about it.
Evidently, the National Basketball Association is also enraptured by the past and visible in the throwback team jerseys that resemble ugly Christmas sweaters given to atheists by their loving Christian relatives, to the abundance of flat top fades sported by the youngest of league players. Perhaps it’s an infatuation the NBA has with the past and not a full-blown Chris Brown + Rihanna crazy in love relationship, but it’s obviously affection there.
That’s why the league should pen another love letter to the past and reinstitute the player-coach and for just one reason; Jason Kidd.
The NBA introduced the first salary cap in the 1984-1985 season and the player coach became collateral damage. The thinking was that teams would hire players as coaches, just so the players salary wouldn’t count against the teams cap. A player could also be a head or assistant coach before that year, so if the Philadelphia 76ers put Dr. J on their staff as an assistant coach and player, in 1985, they would have benefited from his 20 points and 5 rebounds a game without his salary counting against the cap.
Dr. J’s salary that year was $1.05 Million dollars and though that looks like the monthly jewelry + stripper allowance for Allen Iverson in his heyday, or the yearly headband budget of Lebron James, a million bucks for playing basketball, during the Reagan administration, was nothing to sneeze at (just a thought, but I’m sure current NBA players don’t want anything to do with throwback salaries!). There were just 11 players who had million dollar salaries in 1984-1985 and with a salary cap of just $3.6 million, I could see the league playing it safe by removing the temptation for Philly to get crafty and have Dr. J in a blazer and basketball shorts or some Haggar slacks and a jersey or any other player-coach, sartorial, mix and match reference.
The player coach was banned for solid, fiduciary reasons. I get it. I can imagine Mark Cuban telling the media with a straight face he chose Ricky Rubio as his coach because of his “experience” and communication skills even though Ricky stumbles with English and is a frickin’ kid. But, if it’s any compelling reason to bring back the player-coach, it is definitely Jason Kidd.
He recently retired…..like a few seconds before I wrote this article, and he can still play. He could give 15 minutes a game, be effective and still game plan and yell at the officials! I wouldn’t suggest it for just any former-player-turned-coach, even for former point guards. Although point guards are considered the “coach” on the floor, I never thought that Avery Johnson should be a player coach. He was never great and wasn’t a very effective player when he retired. NBA greatness should get rewards and even roll-back rules once in a blue moon.
The player-coach alumni features 3 players on the NBA Top 50 All Time Players list and that includes Lenny Wilkens (Brooklyn’s own), but also Bill Russell and Bob Cousy. That’s greatness personified in the form of 17 championship rings between those two! J. Kidd would be following in the footsteps of other NBA legends.
Without a doubt, Jason Kidd is an all time great and he’s still got game…..he even has a ring if that’s an issue. It would be a solid move to leverage Kidd’s 19 years of playing experience, both on the court and on the bench and would be especially interesting for the Brooklyn Nets to do it, since their owner Mikhail D. Prokhorov is always ready to make a big splash and nothing would be splashier (Dip-Set) then having a future Hall Of Fame, player-coach, in today’s NBA.
You might say impossible, BUT, as his swan song for the team, Jay-Z could mount an effort to reverse that player-coach ban and historically cap his NBA legacy as he segues into a player agent. If he can go from the crack house to the White House, surely he can get the league to reverse course and get Kidd back in some shorts next year. It would leave Mr. Carter’s hand prints not just all over the Brooklyn Nets but also all over the NBA!
And not for nothing, but CJ Watson ain’t no Jason Kidd…Just ask anybody on the Nets.
Richard Chandler Burroughs