Father Time may be undefeated in eventually bringing basketball players to their knees and ending their careers, but EWE Baskets Oldenburg captain Rickey Paulding continues to do a good job making sure he's not home when the old man comes knocking on his door.
Paulding turned 37 years old in October, making him the oldest player in the 7DAYS EuroCup this season. But you certainly couldn't tell that by looking at the 1.96-meter forward's stats. He has started all eight of his team's games and averaged 12.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.4 steals - including pouring in 21 points in Oldenburg's first road victory of the season against Buducnost VOLI Podgorica in Round 5.
"You have to give Rickey Paulding a lot of credit. A 37-year-old guy hitting the big points when the team needed it the most – that was another incredible performance by our captain," Oldenburg teammate Karsten Tadda said after the win.
"We arrived at Oldenburg and the coach at the time, Predrag Krunic, was big on family and keeping the team together... We thought let's give it a shot."
"Another" is the appropriate word as Paulding has been doing his thing for Oldenburg for so long. This is his 13th season with the northern German club.
"The main thing is I've been pretty lucky in terms of injuries. I haven't had anything major. You learn your body more as you get older. I know that rest is important. I make sure I get the right amount of sleep. And I kind of watch what I eat, even though I don't all the time," Paulding explained when asked about the secret to his longevity.
Oldenburg is a pretty good fit for the Detroit, Michigan, native and his mild-mannered demeanor.
"It's kind of like a second home. It's definitely home for my kids. It's kind of like me: it's a quiet place, very family orientated, but it's also very special," Paulding said of the city of about 170,000 residents.
Paulding never really planned on staying in Oldenburg when he arrived there in 2007 having played one season with Israeli side Hapoel Jerusalem as well as one each at French clubs ASVEL Villeurbanne and Gravelines. But there was a family feeling right away when he got there with his wife.
"All the places we loved and we said we wished we could have stayed there. And then we arrived at Oldenburg and the coach at the time, Predrag Krunic, was big on family and keeping the team together. That was the first time I really heard that. We thought let's give it a shot," he remembered. "I was lucky enough to be in a situation where the coach hadn't changed so much. They stressed keeping players on multiple-year contracts so you are able to play with the same guys and develop a relationship."
And that is exactly what Oldenburg and Paulding did - build a relationship, not to mention have success. Having played in the German BBL since 2001, Oldenburg's biggest moment came in 2009 when the club captured its only league title with Paulding being named the Finals MVP.
"2009 was crazy. Everything just kind of came together," he said. "It was a really close group and it meant a lot for all of us to win the championship for each other and the city of Oldenburg."
Paulding also helped the club win the German Cup for the first time in 2015 - albeit in an entirely different situation having struggled all season and just having gone through a coaching change with current coach Mladen Drijencic taking over for Sebastian Machowski.
"I remember thinking this might be my one opportunity to win it because we were hosting it. It was special. We all came together and Mladen took over and gave the team a different energy and we rallied around it and were able to win it."
The Oldenburg basketball community's love and appreciation for Paulding reached an almost unheard of level in European basketball circles in November 2016 when a mural depicting Paulding was unveiled on a building right next to the club's basketball arena - with the city receiving the unofficial nickname 'Pauldingburg'.
"It's special because that's how the city feels about me. It's cool, I don't think you get that much in basketball overseas, especially as a foreigner," he said. "I've embraced it. It's pretty cool, but it is a little strange at the same time to see your face on the side of the arena."
Earlier this season, Paulding overtook Jarvis Walker to move into second place on the German league's all-time scoring list with nearly 6,660 points - behind only Michael Jackel's 10,789 from the 1980s and 1990s. Paulding’s most recent two-year contract extension with Oldenburg will expire at the end of the season and he has yet to announce if he plans on continuing to play.
When asked what the deciding factor would be, Paulding said: "My body, how I feel, if I'm still mentally engaged, if I still want to go through pre-season, if I still want to do all the traveling. And then my family. Are they still happy about being in Oldenburg."
"You want people to remember that you played hard, you gave your all. Most importantly, I want to be known as a good guy off the court."
Paulding's oldest of three sons is 12 years old and nearing high school age and the family slowly needs to decide if they will stay in Germany or go back to the United States where the kids can go to high school in America.
Paulding already has secured a legacy in Oldenburg and the German BBL - not only for his performance on the court but also his level-headed nature and likable personality.
"You want people to remember that you played hard, you gave your all. Most importantly, I want to be known as a good guy off the court. I try to be respectful. I try to go about my business and do everything in the right way. I hope people remember how I played in Oldenburg and how I feel about this city."
They will certainly remember how long he avoided Father Time calling for him to hang up his sneakers.