Monday, April 11, 2011

When Speed Fails

There was an interesting piece from ESPN about the importance of the what the Brits call pace last week:
Pace and explosiveness can launch a player into a team, but their gifts can blight in the long run. If you're a very good player, and you happen to have pace, then you can become a great. If you're a quick player and nothing more than that, then when your spark goes and you can't change, you can jog on.


Zinedine Zidane wasn't slow at the start of career, but always clearly better than his pace would suggest. John Sheridan was a flair player without speed before the Premier League became a global product. Andres Iniesta is no slouch, but his genius resides in his head rather than his muscles.

As impressive are the players who start a career off the back of blistering pace, and remain at the top until they retire. This might also be the hardest career to build - any player can be born with pace, but few become vital to a team in their thirties.

Ryan Giggs is celebrated for maintaining a career at Manchester United, praised for transforming himself from greyhound in the '90s to grey and vital in the next decade. A visceral player before the turn of the millennium, he then became more intelligent, effective and consistent.

Adjusting to the imitations imposed by age is an issue in virtually every human pursuit, but basketball seems the other sport where this is a particularly huge challenge. Some guys, namely Jordan with his fadeaway jumper, are differently though equally dominant when their physical skills begin to go. Others --Iverson comes to mind, but there's surely a better example-- can't make the switch so successfully, and their impact drops in direct proportion to their athletic prowess.

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