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The Great Banana Boat Generation

LeBron. D-Wade. Melo. CP3. These superstars have shaped the NBA for the past decade, and now they’re moving toward veteran status.

After a long summer of topless championship parades, free-agency meetings in the Hamptons, Snapchat mishaps, and gold medals, the NBA is finally, truly, really, almost back. The start of training camp marks the beginning of our NBA Preview.

Banana Boat Week examined how that group of friends has shaped the modern NBA and what we might expect from them in these final seasons before they ride the waves into the sunset.

“The Final Stretch of LeBron’s Race Toward Greatness,” Jonathan Tjarks

“Most athletes who have played as much as LeBron has are well on their way to retirement, if they aren’t already out of the league. What makes him unique is how quickly he racked up such a massive workload. No player in the history of the NBA has played as many minutes as LeBron at his age. He’s a walking science experiment, quantifying how much high-level professional basketball the human body can withstand before it starts to break down.”

The Ballad of the Banana Boat Brotherhood”

“There is something surreal about the friendship that LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Paul share. Individually, they are paragons at their respective positions, but collectively, as the Brotherhood, they have come to define the significance of the modern NBA athlete, and his power both within the league and outside of it.”

“The Lord of No Rings,” Ben Detrick

“[H]e is not worthy of Frank Ocean’s crooned mockery. Nor should he receive our sympathy. Anthony is a nine-time All-Star, a scoring champion, a three-time Olympic gold medalist, and an NCAA tournament winner who led the Syracuse Orangemen to the university’s first championship as a freshman in 2003. He is a first-ballot NBA Hall of Famer. Anthony has nothing left to prove, really, nor is he likely to have an opportunity to bend the trajectory of his story to one that resembles the loftier arcs enjoyed by his contemporaries. And that’s OK.”

“Could Dwyane Wade Bring Team Banana Boat to Chicago?” Kevin O’Connor

“Wade has a player option for 2017 and [Rajon] Rondo’s second year is only partially guaranteed. The 2017 salary cap is projected at $102 million, so the Bulls could easily create enough space for one max contract. Maybe Wade could dump Rondo and upgrade to his Banana Boat buddy Chris Paul, who has a player option next summer.

“Still with me? OK, let’s go way off the deep end here: Don’t forget LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony have options to hit free agency in 2018, and the Banana Boat quartet has expressed a desire to play together.”

Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union Are Redefining What It Means to Be a Power Couple,” Katie Baker

“As they grow into middle age, and as their boys grow into men, it’s clear that both Wade and Union are confronting their legacies and impact. And they’re doing so in a way that feels organic and deeply personal, that is less ‘power couple’ and more powerful. Sometimes, these past few months have shown, the best way of standing on your platform involves first stepping off your pedestal.”

“Could This Be the Year That Chris Paul Falls Off?” Shea Serrano

“[I]f he’s good, the Clippers will be good. And if he’s bad — or even if he’s less than stellar — then they’ll be bad.”

“Darko Milicic Should Have Been a Cult Hero,” Mark Titus

“He was a teenage prodigy who was selected second overall, won an NBA title as a rookie, and made more than $50 million in his career. He never had to work particularly hard at anything, retired when he was 28, and now is doing whatever the hell he wants. Take basketball out of the equation and his life is pretty much the pipe dream of every 20-year-old who has seen The Wolf of Wall Street.”

“Dwight Howard’s Last Stand,” Jason Concepcion

“Dwight has never crossed a bridge without drenching it in gasoline and tossing a lit match over his shoulder. To paraphrase Morpheus in The Matrix, Dwight’s problem has never been his technique.”