But by being so connected to the sport, the games also tend to date us. Sometimes I can forget that I'm 45 years old, but as soon as I look at the rosters at a game, I'm smacked back to reality.
For me, the 2011 NBA playoffs have been like receiving a bottle of Geritol. With the Miami Heat playing the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference finals and the Dallas Mavericks facing the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference, the NBA that I knew is officially passing into the sunset.
The first NBA Finals I covered was in 1996, when Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls beat the Seattle SuperSonics in six games. I was 30 years old. That was the first of 12 consecutive NBA Finals that I covered for the Daily News, through 2007.
Jordan played in the first three, but after that, the Finals have been the showcase of three players - Tim Duncan, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant.
Between 1999 and 2010, at least one of those three players has competed in every NBA Finals. I attended nine of them.
Those Finals coincide with a 12-year span of my life during which I matured from single with no responsibilities to anyone but myself to getting married with a 6-year-old daughter.
That's about as a 180-degree change in lifestyle as you can have.
But this year, for the first time since Jordan won his second threepeat in 1998, the NBA Finals will not have Duncan, O'Neal or Bryant.
The next wave of NBA stars is ready to take their shot at the throne. They have replaced the generation of stars with whom I was most professionally associated.
In a career that once kept me forever young, I'm feeling my age. With so many dramatic changes in the hierarchy of the NBA, there are far too many reminders for me to try to forget how old I am.
Look at it from my perspective. Bryant was just 17 and still at Lower Merion High School when I wrote my first column about him. I was 30, but was just 13 years older.
In contrast, 2011 MVP Derrick Rose, who is leading the Bulls against the Heat, wasn't born when I graduated from the University of Maryland in 1987.
The same applies to Oklahoma City All-Stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, who yesterday won a Game 7 against the Memphis Grizzlies.
In fact, the Thunder is the franchise I covered in my first Finals, except they were the SuperSonics.
Miami's Dwyane Wade was in middle school when I covered my first Finals; the Heat's Chris Bosh and LeBron James were in elementary school.
I can't ignore what the calendar tells me anymore.
In 1999, I saw Tim Duncan lead San Antonio to the first of four NBA titles. Last month, a 35-year-old Duncan couldn't prevent eighth-seeded Memphis from eliminating the top-seeded Spurs in the first round.
In 2000, I was in the Staples Center when O'Neal and Bryant launched the second Showtime era for the Los Angeles Lakers, who defeated the Indiana Pacers.
Last week, a now 32-year-old Bryant and the Lakers were stopped in their quest for a third straight title by the Mavericks.
The Mavericks actually give me a little solace because their star players - Dirk Nowitzki (32) and Jason Kidd (38) - are guys whose NBA careers began roughly around the same time I began covering the league on a regular basis.
I saw Shaq tear through the NBA like an unstoppable force of nature for more than a decade. Last week my knees ached as much as his did as I watched his now 39-year-old body prove to be worthless for the Boston Celtics against the overwhelming athleticism of the young and vibrant Heat.
There is the old adage among athletes that Father Time is the only undefeated opponent in sports.
Looking at these fresh, new stars remaining in the NBA playoffs, I'm starting to accept that also applies to sports writers.
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