They come around every once in a while. The great teams that just seem to dominate their sport forever. You can look back at the legendary Montreal Canadiens teams in the NHL, the Denver Broncos with John Elway in the NFL, and Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in the NBA. All these teams had stretches where they were undoubtedly the class of their leagues. They also all suffered an end to their dominance.
Great teams tend to be built with a win now mentality. No matter how long they remain great, the cycle remains the same. Bring in the best of the best and take a run at a championship every year. Not a run in five years, a run this year. The cost of that is inevitably a loss of youth and prospects in exchange for top free agents and trades for aging veterans. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top current teams ready for a fall from grace.
NBA: Los Angeles Lakers
Well, it’s starting to look like it could be a long season for the once formidable Lakers who, at the time of this writing, are sitting with a 9-11 record. Age is coming back to bite this team with five star players having over ten seasons of NBA experience. Two of those have over fifteen seasons of experience. Take a look at those five players, paying specific attention to their experience and age:
- Kobe Bryant – 16 Seasons – 34
- Steve Nash – 16 Seasons – 38
- Antawn Jamison – 14 Seasons – 36
- Metta World Peace – 13 Seasons – 33
- Pau Gasol – 11 Seasons – 32
The ages range from 32 all the way to Canadian Steve Nash’s 38. While Kobe may have been the youngest player to reach 30,000 points, he’s no spring chicken either at 34.
The bottom line is these players are nearing or past the tail end of their prime seasons, and that’s shown this year with injuries and a losing record piling up. The Lakers can’t seem to keep up with the younger, faster teams and that may signal the end of the Lakers dynasty.
NFL: New England Patriots
How much longer can Tom Brady rule the NFL with an iron arm? At age 35, you have to think his time in the bigs may be coming to a close sooner rather than later. When you look at the quarterback he replaced (Drew Bledsoe) to take the starting job, you start to realize how long he has been in the league. That was back in 2001, and he has dominated ever since.
But the team has seen a number of pieces change over the years, and many of the great Patriots teammates from the glory years have retired. Gone are Mike Vrabel and Teddy Bruschi, leaving receiver Wes Welker, at 31, as one of the few remaining Super Bowl legends. The Patriots have done a great job of replacing pieces as the team has gone along, but at this point they have begun fighting an uphill battle as their key components are getting older.
MLB: New York Yankees
Can you guess when Derek Jeter made his rookie debut for the pinstripes? No, it wasn’t along side the Babe, though it does feel like he’s been there forever. Jeter made his Yankee debut in 1995, one season before the insanely dominant Yankees teams won their first of five World Series from 1996 to 2009.
That’s why Derek Jeter is the perfect microcosm for where the Yankees are right now; clinging onto the past. The Yankees are old, and they are getting hurt. 38-year old Jeter’s injury in the play-offs showed how critical that one piece was to the entire team. They collapsed with the loss of their captain, and other veterans disappointed. Now the Yankees have announced 37-year old Alex Rodriguez will miss at least the first month of next year due to a hip injury. The Yankees cleared the farm to sign their stars and now are going to have to start rebuilding from scratch.
NHL: Not Applicable
Since we have no idea when the NHL will return, we can’t possibly know how old the players will be. Come on NHL, make this easier on us!
When I used a first round pick this fantasy football season on Peyton Manning, most people scoffed. He’s too old, he’s coming off a season lost to surgery. But what people failed to realize is Peyton Manning has only done one thing in his career: win. It’s hard to find a guy with a track record as strong as Manning’s, play-off success not withstanding, so when he was available I snapped him up. And he hasn’t disappointed.
Manning has been consistently excellent this season, and has left me with no worries about starting him against any team in the league. One of the great comeback stories in my opinion.
On the other hand, when I snagged Vernon Davis in the later rounds I was praised for a great late pick. One of the best Tight Ends in the NFL, it was a miracle he had fallen that far and was still available. However, it has been less than a dream season for Davis, with this weekend marking the lowest of the lows. Davis was held without a reception, tallying a whopping zero fantasy points and leaving me questioning whether I should start him or not.
It’s not a question of talent, but maybe system play. Davis is not being targeted or, as he suggested, his routes are not being adjusted to compensate for coverage. This leaves Davis as a questionable option; some weeks he can be huge while in others he becomes a non-factor.
And that’s the tale of two players: one who has exceeded expectations, and another who has underwhelmed. Who are your two players this season?