"Okay, we're getting ready for the 4th quarter of this barn-burner between the Boston Celtics and the Phoenix Suns, and we've had a lot of good guesses to our trivia question: Who is the oldest player in the history of the NBA? but no correct guesses. And I'm really not surprised, because this was a tough one."
"Well, you know, age is just a number anyway."
"No, age is more than just a number."
"You're as young as you feel."
"Again -- untrue. Sometimes some people feel young who are in fact very old. The same way that sometimes some people feel pretty who are not."
"Oh, come on!"
"I'm just being real here."
"Well, if we're being really real here, I've got to call you on that one, because because beauty is irreductably subjective."
"Well played, Sir, you are absolutely correct. But age is irreducably objective."
"I grudgiungly concede the point."
"Anyway, people guessed Robert Parrish, Kevin Willis and Dikembe Mutombo, and those are all very good guesses. Those guys are all in the top 5."
"I guessed Nat Hickey."
"Yes, and so did a few of our callers. Hickey was the head coach of the Providence Steamrollers in 1947-48, in the very early days of the NBA, and he put himself in in 2 games, and he was nearly 46 years old at the time, and, until, let's see, until about 10 years ago he was the oldest player in the history of the league."
"So somebody broke Hickey's record in 2007 --"
"2006. I'm trying to think of guys who'd been in the league for a long time in 2006. You already siad it wasn't Willis or Mutombo."
"This is a tricky one.'
"No. Okay, I'm going to end your suffering soon. One reason why this is so difficult is because most of the oldest players in the NBA, or the oldest players in most major league sports, have been All-Stars, superstars. This is a solid player, no doubt, or they wouldn't keep hiring him. He's solid, but he hasn't started very many games. As a matter of fact, over the course of his career, he hasn't even appeared in as many regular-season games as he's sat on the bench. Not injured reserve, but active and sitting out the games on the bench."
"And he's played in this game, tonight."
"You mean Steven Bollinger?"
"That's correct. Steven Bollinger is the all-time oldest player in the history of the NBA."
"I didn't realize he was that old. I mean, yeah, he's got a few grey hairs, he's obviously not a kid -- wait a minute. Wait just a minute. You said Hickey had the record until 10 years ago?"
"I did say that."
"Has Bollinger held the record for 10 years?"
"Yes he has."
"That means he's -- holy shit!"
"Careful, we're on the air!"
"I apologize, ladies and gentlemen. You're trying to tell me that Steven Bollinger, journeyman reserve point guard for the Phoenix Suns, is 56 years old?!"
"Yes. Except, someone who's been in the league as long as he has, I think you refer to him as 'veteran' instead of 'journeyman.'"
"I stand corrected. 56! Wow, no wonder his knees and elbows and wrists are all taped up so often."
"I was talking to him before the game and he said he wished there were some way they could also wrap a hip. Says it might be a trick hip that finally ends his career."
"Did he say that he hurts all over most of the time?"
"As a matter of fact, he did. Not in a whiny way. He wasn't complaining, we were just talking about what it's like to be 56 and trying to keep up with all of these -- kids, from Bollinger's point of view. He actually called me 'Kid,' too. I didn't mind that, because -- well, because he's freakin' old!"
"So, he was drafted -- when, along around the mid-80's? Where did he play in college?"
"He didn't play college basketball, and he wasn't drafted. He declared for the 1979 draft out of high school. 10 rounds came and went and he wasn't drafted, but he managed to get himself a tryout with the LA Lakers, made the practice squad, and by the time the 1979 regular season started, he was on the roster. And he's been either on an NBA roster or an NBA injured reserve, not just every season, but every day of every NBA season since."
"Wait a minute -- he's not the oldest and also the youngest player in NBA history, is he?"
"4th-youngest. And he's also been very outspoken about how he thinks college athletics are a bad deal for athletes. He's called it a brilliant scam to keep from paying professional athletes. And if you look at other countries and how they tend to have a number of different professional leagues for each sport -- very much like how there used to be very many different minor leagues in baseball before college baseball eliminated a lot of them --"
"-- Except that in other countries, instead of minor leagues belonging to a major league franchise, all the teams are independent of one another..."
"-- And teams move up and down from one league to another based on their season records. Exactly."
"Right. So... Steven Bollinger. My goodness. He does not look 56 years old from the neck down. Good for him. 1979 to 2007... So he's in his 38th season in the NBA. I'm guessing his lead in the record category of longest career as a player in the NBA is rather substantial."
"He is nowhere near the lead in most games played, but in number of seasons played, he is 17 years ahead of Robert Parrish and Kevin Garnett."
"17 years and counting."
"Yes. You are correct. You are incorrect when you say that age is just a number and that you're as pretty as you feel, but when you're right, you're right."