Even as he thought about coaching or becoming a general manager and talked about being part-owner of a pro sports team, Jason Kidd was reluctant to do the one thing that defined him as a player.
That is, giving up the basketball.
Yet that's exactly what Kidd did Monday.
Two months after saying he had every intention of fulfilling the final two seasons of a three-year contract with the New York Knicks, the one-time Bay Area hoops prodigy, now 40, decided to leave the NBA to the youngsters.
It was the right decision made at the proper time, for Kidd over 19 seasons touched every corner of every floor in the league, making a clear and distinct impression upon millions of fans, thousands of players, hundreds of coaches and dozens of franchises.
A megastar at St. Joseph Notre Dame High and at Cal, Kidd was the exceedingly rare player who did not need to score to have an acute impact on the outcome of a game.
He was the unselfish point guard who made the right pass at the right time, to the right teammate, in precisely the right place.
He was the unimpressive jump shooter who made more 3-pointers than all but two men in NBA history, the iron man who played more minutes and grabbed more rebounds than any guard in league history.
But the effects of age and mileage were painfully evident during the Eastern Conference semifinals between New York and Indiana. Always a high-energy force, dictating tempo on offense and disrupting opponents on defense, a visibly slower Kidd was reduced to a role player getting only slightly more action than an assistant coach.
Time after time in the decisive final minutes of games, the smartest player in the league was a spectator bound to the bench.
For the first time in his career, that's precisely where Jason Kidd should have been -- as he made only three of 25 shots in the playoffs, and none of his last 17.
This was less than two months after he told me he planned to come back next season.
"I look forward to next year, especially with the year we've had to this point in New York," Kidd said in a March conversation. "We're going in the right direction. We're competitive, playing the best teams well. The biggest thing is for us to continue that success. With Amare (Stoudemire), Tyson (Chandler) and Carmelo (Anthony) we have guys who can carry the load. It'll be fun to go on that ride."
Kidd will not take that ride, wherever it may lead. Knicks coach Mike Woodson thanked Kidd for his leadership and presence. General manager Glen Grunwald, who anticipated Kidd would return for at least one more season, probably realizes this is the best decision for the team and the player.
And even if he doesn't, Jason recognized the time was near. The future Hall of Famer talked in March about the challenges posed by today's young point guards, particularly Portland's Damian Lillard -- who also hails from the East Bay -- and Cleveland's Kyrie Irving.
"It's not a physical game, like it used to be, but there is a lot of talent," Kidd said. "A lot of guys can put the ball in the basket. And the list of point guards is so deep. It goes in cycles, but I don't think I've ever seen it so deep and so young at the point guard position."
Yet even then Kidd acknowledged there are mornings when he feels 50 and nights when he plays like 30.
But the boy who became a national star while still a teenager was confronting his career mortality. Father Time is undefeated, and he takes no prisoners.
"I'd love to fulfill my contract with the Knicks," Kidd said then.
"But if there's a point in time when I have to walk away, I won't hesitate."
That point in time is now. Kidd did not hesitate. It was the right decision, made by one of the best decision-makers to ever set foot on a basketball court.
Jason Kidd's greatness was apparent at an early age. page 4