Today is my 29th birthday. If I was a player in the NBA, I supposed I’d be a “veteran” by now.

Even a little Amare can be intimidating.

I know this because I was watching the Utah Jazz’s Matt Harpring shoot free throws when the commentator described him as an “NBA veteran.” This was (kind of) deeply disturbing to me because Matt and I went to Georgia Tech together in the late 1990s. Although we never met one another on campus, I like to think we would’ve been good friends because we had so much in common. We’re both named Matt, we went to Georgia Tech, great hair, and the ladies like us. You can understand why I was offended when the commentator implied that Matt and I were getting old. I turned off the TV and cranked up Tupac.

It’s bizarre when you realize that your heroes are younger than you. This month our own Amare Stoudemire and Leandro Barbosa both turned 25. Hypothetically, if I was a bully and I was raised in Brazil, I could’ve beaten Leandro in a game of 1-on-1 and perhaps in a brawl over a hard foul. I mean really, what could a 3rd grade Leandrino have done against me the mighty 7th grade stud?

I can’t make the same claim against Stoudemire because he’s been beating up 7th graders since he was five–the same year he got his first tattoo.

Since I’m on the subject…Amare has to be the most intimidating dude in the NBA. Yeah Big Ben Wallace is, well, big. But you can’t take him too seriously with that ‘fro. Anyway you look at it, Amare is intimidating. Even when he was injured and sitting the bench in his suit, he blocked two shots a game just by staring down the jump shooters. He’s “hell boy” even when he’s standing still.

As I type this, there is a four-inch tall bobble head of Amare on my desk. I stole from a co-worker last season. When I get angry at my computer, I slam my fist on the desk and my little Amare nods his head to agree with me. That’s the only time mini-Amare seems cool with me. The rest of the time he just cocks his head to the right with a stare of disappointment and disbelief. Even with a stubby body and a massive head, Amare intimidates me–a grown man.

I shouldn’t be too self-conscious about turning 29 because there are a lot of guys playing in the NBA who are older than me. Although I don’t like the Clipper’s Sam Cassell, mostly because he made those awful faces in the 2006 playoffs, he’s living proof that old guys rule. The man is 38-years-old. He was born in 1969, the same year as Woodstock, the same year that “…the age of Aquarius…” was the number one song.

But Sam’s a baby compared to Houston’s Dikembe Mutombo, born 1966. Do the math. 202007 – 1966 = 41 years of awesome. I’d love to play Mutombo 1-on-1 just so I could get dunked on by a guy who’s only 14 years away from getting senior citizen discounts at most restaurants.

I shouldn’t be discouraged by my age. Good things happen with time. Look at Steve Nash. Although he’s always been a good player, his league domination didn’t start until he got out of his 20s. He got his first MVP award not long after he turned 31, then he did it again at age 32. He’s 33 now, and he’s still playing at MVP caliber. Everyone knows he’s going to play into his 40s. This is good news for all of us.

I feel so much better now. I’m only 29. I have all year to prepare for the world-domination that begins at age 30. It’s fair to say that 2009 is going to be a good year for me. By then I’ll have earned back-to-back MVB. Most Valuable Blogger.


Matt Smith moved from New York City to Phoenix in 2001. He caught one Suns game on TV in 2004 and has been hooked ever since. Flip on MTV and you might spot Matt in some re-runs of The Real World and Road Rules Challenge. Check out his website:

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