Experience does pay. Even though these probable Hall of Famers -- all with at least 10 seasons in the NBA -- are closer to the ends than the beginnings of their careers, all should be factors as the season moves into the homestretch. Expect all seven to help their teams go deep into the playoffs.
-- SHAQUILLE O'NEAL, Boston Celtics
Rookie season: 1992-93
Why he still matters: In his prime, Shaq really was the Superman he proclaimed to be -- unstoppable near the basket and remarkably quick for his size. He's averaging a career-low 9.3 points and 4.9 rebounds, but no one wants to take a charge from the big fella in the playoffs. Can the four-time NBA champ (three with the Lakers, one with the Heat) win a fifth?
-- DIRK NOWITZKI, Dallas Mavericks
Rookie season: 1998-99
Why he still matters: He's a matchup nightmare because he can handle the ball with either hand, plus he has lots of shooting range for a 7-footer. The 10-time All-Star is durable, too, and he has been a scoring machine since his third season. He seems fresh enough to log another decade, but his time alongside Kidd is running out.
-- JASON KIDD, Dallas Mavericks
Rookie season: 1994-95
Why he still matters: He's still a marvel in the open court, and his shooting has become much better over the years. The 10-time All-Star's career assist average of 9.2 is fifth all-time behind Magic Johnson, John Stockton, Oscar Robertson and Isiah Thomas -- all Hall of Famers. He has been to the NBA Finals twice; this may be his last chance to win a title.
-- KEVIN GARNETT, Boston Celtics
Rookie season: 1995-96
Position: Forward Age: 34
Why he still matters: Never mind that his scoring average is down to 14.9; look at that supporting cast. He still can run, defend the rim and play with passion. The 14-time All-Star, who came straight to the NBA from high school, eyes one more title bid.
-- STEVE NASH, Phoenix Suns
Rookie season: 1996-97
Position: Guard Age: 37
Why he still matters: He's the ultimate pass-first leader with strong fundamentals and plenty of flair. Last season, the two-time MVP had the best statistical season by any point guard 35 or older. He's as good with his off-hand as any player of his generation, plus he has terrific vision and an excellent midrange shooting game.
-- TIM DUNCAN, San Antonio Spurs
Rookie season: 1997-98
Why he still matters: There's a reason he's called the "Big Fundamental" -- watch how he makes those backboard shots. He has led the Spurs to four titles, and he's the only player to earn All-NBA and All- Defensive honors in each of his first 13 seasons. His minutes are way down this season, but that should make him fresh for a long postseason run.
KOBE BRYANT, L.A. Lakers
Rookie season: 1996-97
Why he still matters: He came to the NBA straight out of high school -- general manager Jerry West sent Vlade Divac to Charlotte for his draft rights -- and now he's talked about as perhaps the greatest Laker of all time. The 13-time All-Star is showing signs of wear and tear (partly because of his 198 playoff games), but who's better with the game on the line?