Calling the Shots: New era of all stars emerge in sports for 2014

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Quarterbacks Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos and Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks shake hands after a preseason matchup between the teams on Aug. 13, 2013. The two teams will face off in Super Bowl XLVII this year, at Metlife Stadium on Feb. 2, 2014.

Eric Fishbin, Sports Editor

As an era comes to an end, 2014 will be ushering in a new one.  Some of the great athletes of our generation’s time have come to an end.  Although the sports world’s greatest athletes are departing, some dancin’ and prancin’ new players are arising (thanks Clyde Frazier).

In the National Basketball Association (NBA), stars of the late 1990s and 2000s are entering the twilights of their careers.  Four time NBA Finals champion, three time Finals MVP, and fourteen time all-star Tim Duncan has shown signs of fatigue in his 17th season in the NBA. After failing to win his fifth Larry O’Brien Trophy against the Miami Heat dynasty last year, his points per game have dropped from his career average of 20.0 to 14.6. As one star dims, another brightens to fill the void.  During only his second NBA season, Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans has wrested the title of most dominant big man in the league from Duncan. After playing at University of Kentucky, Davis is averaging nearly 20 points and 11 rebounds per contest.  Already a member of the national United States basketball team, Davis has become more than just the NBA’s most unibrowed player.

Duncan is not the only legend heading out of the Association.  Acclaimed Canadian point guard Steve Nash is a shell of his former self.  Expected to retire following this season, the former Phoenix Suns player, and two-time MVP of the league will hang up the jersey as a Los Angeles Laker.  Yet, once again, there is a new player to take his place.  Out of Weber State, Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers has already made his mark in the league by leading the formerly defunct Portland Trailblazers to a 30-9 record and a second seed in the Western Conference playoff bracket.  Laker legend Kobe Bryant even encouraged NBA fans to vote for Lillard over him in the All-Star game.  Known for his shooting prowess, Lillard is posting close to 22 points and 6 assists a game.  In a few years time, expect this point guard to be one of the top players in the Association.

An exciting new generation is taking over the NBA, but it is definitely not the only sport that this is currently happening.  In the National Football League (NFL), the quarterback controls a team’s outcome.  Peyton Manning, of the Denver Broncos, is the best at controlling a game in the league.  Despite several severe surgeries, Peyton showed his resilience and is in a position to win his second Super Bowl.  The 16 year vet is expected to retire within two years (at least there’s still Eli).  Although the game will miss him, the quarterback driven NFL will get a taste of the new generation of dual threat quarterbacks in the NFC Championship game.  Russell Wilson of the Seahawks and Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers have helped rescue their teams from mediocrity experienced just a few seasons ago.  For the Seahawks, Wilson and co. are hoping to win their first Super Bowl in franchise history.  In its 38 years of existence, the second year QB, along with a top defense, and the “12th Man” of CenturyLink Field will try and make history.  The former Wisconsin Badger has great mobility, and is one of the most athletic players in the league.  Drafted to the MLB and NFL, the under-sized Wilson will try and prove his doubters wrong.  For the other team in the NFC Championship game, Colin Kaepernick has proved himself after taking over the 49ers over Alex Smith last season.  The monster athlete has shown his ability to throw the long ball, and make plays in the open field.   Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks will face off against the old guard of Peyton Manning  in the Super Bowl this year at Metlife Stadium.  In a quarterback driven league, the emergence of capable replacements for all-time greats cannot be understated.

The trend follows in the MLB.  In wake of the Alex Rodriguez scandal, and during the offseason, some fans might forget about the success of the young and talented Mike Trout.  Only in his second year in the Majors, Trout has been selected to two all-star games, and he won the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 2012.  Trout’s statistics tell it all.  The versatile, 5-tool player led the AL in runs scored, stolen bases, walks, and he also won the 2012 Heart and Hustle Award.  On and off the field, Trout has proved to be one of the game’s best players, and he is only entering his third year.  The 2012 and 2013 MLB Player of the Year winner has made baseball fans forget about aging players like Ichiro Suzuki and Miguel Tejada.  Along with Trout, Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg has already climbed to the top of the list of baseball’s best starting pitchers.  At 25 years old, Strasburg has been an all-star and recorded a Nationals record for most strike outs in a major league debut (14).  The first overall pick in the 2009 draft has made his mark in the league, and is contributing to ushering out pitchers such as Johan Santana and Roy Oswalt.  Strasburg should be in consideration for the Cy Young Award if he can manage to stay healthy.

These three main sports in the United States are excited and ready for the new emerging stars.  Despite us being ready for the new talent, many of us will yearn for the games between Manning and Brady and the days where Kobe could post 45 on any given night or Duncan putting up 20 and 20.  Sports fans around the country seem ready for the thrilling games ahead in the near future.