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Imagine making your dream come true by playing the sport you know and love for as long as you can. Then you retire, but before you retire, of course you’ll meet people along the way. Some rivals and some actual fans and maybe even your potential wife or husband. But who would’ve thought in a league where winning is everything and the next play could be your last, that you would make life long friends? Now to be completely objective, the individuals pictured above met each other as early as high school. But the point remains the same, how on earth do you gain such tight friendship with players from other teams while playing to win? And is that even healthy for the sport itself?

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Who knows if it’s good for the sport or not? Back in the day, although I wasn’t really old enough to grasp and critique the 1980’s and 1990’s era of basketball; what I pulled from watching NBA Hardwood Classics and documentaries on ESPN is this. Friendships didn’t form until after respect and championships were battled for. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird DESPISED each other before they became such close friends. I’ve lost count how many times Michael Jordan had to go through Patrick Ewing and the New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference Playoffs before MJ made his way to the NBA finals. My point is, in this new era of basketball, players are becoming close friends with the competition before they even start their battles. Not to say that friendship lessens a player’s concentration while facing an opponent during a game. But more that the respect aspect and grit has been washed away from today’s game.

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One might ask, well who cares? Teams and players are still winning championships every year. Completely true, but think about the teams who have won recently. Teams like the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers, and most recently the Golden State Warriors. What did all of those teams have in common? Chemistry and comradery if you didn’t know the answer. Sometimes it’ll even take a break from friendship to win championships like the endless amount of bitter disputes Shaq and Kobe went through. But anyway, what do you think? Are athletes too friendly nowadays? In my humble opinion I do believe it makes the sport a lot more authentic to the eye. I don’t mind it but no matter who is in between you and the basket you better go get a bucket! Until next time, it was written!

Credits: NBA.com (For the photos)

-Terrence Whaley