But it’s about more than the shooting. As this past season wound down, along with the now-consistent range, he was still making the ill passes through traffic and still holding his own on defense—Kidd took turns guarding both LeBron and Dwyane Wade during the Finals, during which neither found much to exploit—but it’s about more than those, too. His biggest asset is an intangible factor that can only be acquired after years and years of hooping—knowing where to be, when to be there and what to do when you get there. It’s about having a basketball IQ that’s Einstein-ian.
“Even on the defensive plays,” says Mavs reserve Ian Mahinmi, “you’re like, He’s one step ahead of everybody! He’s making plays you’re not even thinking about. Sometimes you’ll be like, How did he even do that? How did he even think about doing that? He’s one of those players who has a lot of experience, and he has skills you can’t teach. It makes him a great player.”
“As I’ve gotten older,” Kidd notes, “it’s just [become] about timing, and not so much scoring 20 points or having 15 assists or 10 rebounds. It’s just being at the right place at the right time and feeling that your teammates believe in you.”
Back to the Finals, back in Miami, three days after Game 5, the Mavs’ momentum rolls right into the next tilt. It’s pretty much the same story—the ball getting exactly where it needs to be on offense and the defensive stops coming one after the next, continually putting an end to any and all scoring runs the Heat try to string together. When the final horn sounds on the season, Dallas is up 105-95, earning its first Championship in franchise history. Kidd’s stat line on the night is a modest 9 points, 8 dimes, 2 threes and a block, but his plus/minus of +18 is telling of his positive impact on the floor.
A while after the game’s end, after taking a champagne shower, still reveling in the successful season, head coach Rick Carlisle wastes no time and requires no media-assisted segue before dropping the name of the ever-valuable veteran.
“In my third year, I’ve learned so much from these guys,” Carlisle says, a satisfied look across his face. “Especially Jason Kidd. His view of the game is so different, and he’s savant-like. He’s just been a thrill and a privilege to spend time with him.”
The list of active players who now boast more impressive résumés than Jason Kidd is paper thin. Among everything previously noted, his CV includes: One Co-Rookie of the Year award, 10 All-Star appearances, second-most assists of all time (behind John Stockton), the third most steals of all time (behind Stockton and Michael Jordan), a spot waiting for him in the Hall of Fame, and now, a Championship.
At 38, Kidd was the oldest guard to start in the Finals in NBA history, and then the oldest starting guard to win one. He’s played more minutes (46,689) than any other active soul in the League. One can’t help but wonder: What’s left? Could there possibly be a better time to call it quits?
Doesn’t matter, because Deuce has no plans to hang up his PEAKs just yet. After Game 6, he deadpanned that he’d like to complete another two or three seasons. (His contract runs out after one.) True, there’s a precedent for such behavior—Stockton played and remained relevant until he was 41—but the L has never been more reliant on athleticism than it is now. When most players come across a guy like Jason Kidd, they probably smile a little, at least on the inside, thinking they’re about to run and jump this old man off the court.
“You feel like you’re going to cheat,” says uber-athletic backup PG Roddy Beaubois. “But then, it’s not that easy. He proves that every game.”