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‡ Two years ago, no one in the history of the NBA had ever averaged five-plus rebounds, eight-plus assists, and 40-plus percent on 3s in a single season. Then, last year, a 36-year-old point guard did it for the first time.

And here he was in March, doing it for the second year in a row.

This is an opportune time for us to appreciate the brilliant “facts’’ that make Jason Kidd what he’s been over the course of a 16-year career, to appreciate the statistical greatness that is unfolding in Dallas right before our eyes - and hopefully before the eyes of an appreciative playoff-watching national audience.

The long-time watchers get it. "I can't say enough great things about Jason Kidd,’’ says his coach, Rick Carlisle. “He’s just phenomenal.’’

The younger generation (you know, the sort of fellows who’ve never seen “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’’) gets it, too.

"Man,’’ said new teammate Haywood, “he's the Ageless Wonder. They say he's 37, but I’ve got to see that birth certificate. He's just one of those guys that seems like he can play forever."

Haywood said that on the night of Kidd’s birthday, when he added another fact/ number: Dirk got ejected in that game, so Kidd absorbed the responsibility of scorer as well as quarterback. He scored a season-high and team-high 26 points to go along with 12 assists in a win over the visiting Clippers. “Since Dirk was gone, I thought I would play (the role of) Dirk,” said Kidd that night, after making 10 of 21 shots and going 6 of 11 on 3-pointers. “I had some great looks early on that went in and out. Earlier in my career, I would’ve stopped shooting because I missed a couple. But I thought the team needed some scoring so I stepped up.”

“Early in my career’’… and now we get to the “legend’’ part.

Jason Kidd has long carried the reputation as a “non-shooter.’’ But he spent most of the season shooting over 42 percent from the arc – a career-high.

Jason Kidd has long been regarded as slow- afoot. He’s obviously not a lightning bolt, yet even as he inches near 40 years old, he survives and thrives on a nightly basis, outdueling dudes 10 and 15 years younger than he is well enough that this season he was selected to his 10th All-Star Game.

Jason Kidd has long carried the reputation as a fun-loving lover of loving.

Well, that one isn’t a myth. That’s where “fact’’ meets “legend’’ - and I can print both of them (kind of.)

There is a wonderful story that I could tell you

from early in Jason’s career. It involves a night on the town during a road trip, a hotel room, mattresses on the floor - everything from Mike Tyson’s stolen tiger to John Belushi’s missing toga - and then a quick visit to the arena, where Kidd would perform at a Rookie-of- the-Year/All-Star/future-Hall-of-Famer level.

I could tell you the details of that story except for two things: one, Kidd would kill me. And two, there isn’t really just one early-in-Kidd’s- career-on-the-road story. There are more like 41 of them a year, one for every away game. So, you know, all the stories sort of run together.

Nowadays, Kidd-at-37 is slightly more mellow. He takes better care of his body. Watches more film. feels responsible for younger teammates. And his suites don’t end up looking like the basement in “Animal House.’’

Still, he seems to find time for quiet dinners with beautiful people, as Kidd continues his legendarily fun-loving ways.

Jason Kidd is the legend and the truth. He is part John Wayne. And he is part Jimmy Stewart. And maybe, since we’re talking about movie stars who were getting it done in 1962, he’s also part Warren Beatty.

You young pups can Google that one, too.

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