The NBA is all about stars, creating them, grooming them and keeping them from fading, as we'll be reminded constantly between now and Sunday. No other professional league relies so heavily on individuals in what's supposed to be a team sport. David Stern once compared NBA players to Disney characters, (Metta World Peace as Dopey, no doubt).
But the process of getting and developing stars is a complicated one, filled with false starts, dead ends and wasted money that only occasionally results in a sparkling, finished product ready to be mass marketed through shoe commercials. And even when a star is born and raised, he doesn't always stay loved and adored. LeBron James, anyone? Dwight Howard?
This weekend in Houston the league will celebrate the past, present and future for three days of All-Star pomp and excess. Until then, we'll try to do our part by listing the top 15 active players in each of three age groupings. That is, the best players 24 years and younger, those aged 25 to 30 and the best players 31 years and older. It's a fair way to compare these players to their true peers and see where they stand at respective points in their careers.