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The Changing Face of the NBA: A New Generation Takes Over

The NBA is in the midst of a major generational shift. The familiar faces that have dominated the league for the past decade – LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard – are gradually ceding the spotlight to a new crop of rising stars. This postseason has crystallized this changing of the guard, with the likes of Nikola Jokic, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Luka Doncic, and Anthony Edwards taking center stage.

The Fading Influence of the Old Guard

For the better part of the 2010s, the NBA revolved around LeBron, Curry, Durant and Leonard. Between them, they accounted for 9 out of 10 NBA championships and 17 out of 20 conference titles from 2011 to 2020. Their influence extended beyond just winning – they were the faces of the league, the names that drove interest and engagement.

However, age and injuries have started to catch up. James is 39, Curry is 36, Durant is 35, and Leonard, while younger at 32, has been plagued by injuries in recent years. 

The Rise of Nikola Jokic and the New MVPs

As the old guard’s influence wanes, a new generation is stepping up. Leading the charge is Nikola Jokic, the Denver Nuggets’ center who is poised to win his third consecutive MVP award. Jokic’s unique blend of scoring, rebounding, and playmaking has made him the centerpiece of a Nuggets team that looks poised for a deep playoff run.

Jokic isn’t alone. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid, both still in their prime, have also won MVP awards in recent years. They represent a shift in the league’s balance of power, with big men reasserting their dominance after years of guard-centric play.

The Next Generation: Doncic, Gilgeous-Alexander, Edwards

Behind Jokic, Antetokounmpo, and Embiid, there’s an even younger generation of stars emerging. Luka Doncic, at just 25 years old, has already established himself as one of the league’s best players. His Dallas Mavericks are a perennial playoff team, and many predict Doncic will win multiple MVP awards before his career is over.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, 25, has emerged as a star for the Oklahoma City Thunder. His scoring prowess and all-around game have drawn comparisons to a young James Harden.

And then there’s Anthony Edwards, the 22-year-old shooting guard for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Edwards’ explosive athleticism and scoring ability have drawn comparisons to a young Dwyane Wade. His performance in the Timberwolves’ first-round playoff victory over the Suns, which included several notable clashes with Durant, felt like a symbolic passing of the torch.

The Shift to Smaller Markets

This generational shift isn’t just about new faces – it’s also about a shift in power from the league’s traditional glamor markets to smaller ones. Jokic’s Nuggets, Gilgeous-Alexander’s Thunder, Doncic’s Mavericks, and Edwards’ Timberwolves all represent smaller media markets compared to Curry’s Warriors, Durant’s Suns, and James’ Lakers.

This shift could have significant implications for the league’s marketing and popularity. The NBA has traditionally relied on the star power of players in big markets to drive interest. Can the likes of Jokic, Doncic, and Gilgeous-Alexander capture the same level of attention while playing in Denver, Dallas, and Oklahoma City? It’s a question the league will have to grapple with in the coming years.

The Future is Bright

Despite the challenges this generational shift may pose, the future of the NBA looks bright. The level of young talent in the league is arguably higher than it’s ever been. And while the departing generation of stars may not be ready to fully hand over the reins just yet – James, in particular, seems determined to defy age for as long as possible – the league appears to be in good hands.

The NBA betting odds for the upcoming season reflect this changing landscape. With a new generation of stars emerging, the NBA standings wager is more open than it has been in years.

In the end, this is the natural cycle of sports. Stars rise, they dominate for a time, and then they pass the torch to the next generation. The NBA has been fortunate to have had the likes of James, Curry, Durant, and Leonard for as long as it has. Now, it’s time for Jokic, Doncic, Gilgeous-Alexander, Edwards, and others to write their own chapters in the league’s history.

Story originally appeared on Mountain West Wire