He may not be playing at the Crucible this year but no reminiscence about the World Championship is complete without mention of Steve Davis.
It is now 30 years since he won the world title for the first time, 30 years since his manager, Barry Hearn, barrelled across the Crucible stage and nearly knocked him over, 30 years since they cemented in the public mind a partnership that would conquer new ground for the game.
Davis first played at the Crucible in 1979. James Callaghan was still prime minister and Jimmy Carter was in the White House.
On that debut appearance, and perhaps unused to such long matches, Davis felt peckish and so had a ham sandwich delivered to the arena. These were more innocent times but he was still accused in the press of not giving the game enough respect.
Steve Davis not giving the game enough respect! Is there anyone, anywhere in the world with a deeper love for and fascination with snooker?
His other love was, of course, for winning, which he very quickly set about doing after his initial 13-11 defeat to Dennis Taylor.
In 1980, Davis beat the defending champion, Terry Griffiths, for the first of seven times at Sheffield before losing 13-9 to Alex Higgins.
By 1981 he was UK champion and an obvious world champion in the making. Davis was a shy man but part of a brash, ballsy group from Essex, led by Hearn, and the ‘Nugget’ seemed to relish being part of a team in what was, and remains, a peculiarly individual sport.
That year Davis beat Jimmy White, Higgins, Griffiths, Cliff Thorburn and, in the final, Doug Mountjoy to win his first world title.
This was a gruelling route to glory. It’s fashionable to look back at this era as being somehow low in standard. It wasn’t. These guys were hard match players still playing for a meagre living. They gave you nothing and you had to scrape them off the table.
Cloths were thicker and balls were heavier. Break building was tough and the game was full of arch tacticians.
Hearn, who had been introduced to Davis in one of his clubs in the 1970s, possessed an entrepreneurial spirit that could thrive in an era where television was putting snooker front and centre. The pair made serious money in endorsements, exhibitions and personal appearances.
But it all took its toll on Davis that first year. Exhausted, he fell 10-1 to Tony Knowles in the first round in 1982.
The titles kept coming, though. He was by now clearly the best player in the game and in 1983 swept through the field – a 13-11 defeat of Taylor in the second round his only close match – beating Thorburn 18-6 in the final with a session to spare.
In 1984 he lost a 12-4 lead over White but still beat him 18-16 in the final. Davis went into the 1985 championship as a racing certainty to land a fourth world title.
But we all know what happened in the final. And his defeat to Taylor opened up a crack in his confidence that clearly played a role the following year when Joe Johnson beat him 18-12.
Even in 1987 it was close, Johnson recovering from 14-10 down to just 14-13 before Davis won 18-14.
And in 1988 he led Griffiths 5-2 but, after being hauled back to 8-8, was fearful of another turnaround. On the morning of the last day, Davis went for an early morning walk around Sheffield to clear his head. He won 18-11.
In 1989 he blew away John Parrott 18-3, the heaviest defeat inflicted on any player at the Crucible, and stood on top of the snooker world, its imperious, all conquering top dog.
But, inside, Davis was not happy with his game and he was also aware that Stephen Hendry was biting at his heels.
As one decade ended and another began, so a new snooker era would dawn, dominated first by Hendry and then by three outstanding talents: John Higgins, Mark Williams and Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Snooker had changed. The boom Davis led had created a string of talented young players, all of whom looked instinctively to attack. Standards rose and many of the old guard were simply left behind.
Back in 1981, there were 13 centuries recorded at the Crucible. Last year there were 61 – itself 22 fewer than the record.
When the 1990s began Davis was still better than almost everyone but Hendry overtook him in the rankings, White beat him in the 90 semis, John Parrott in the last four in 91 and, the following year, he was humbled in the first round by Peter Ebdon.
Even so, he was still winning titles and went into the 1994 championship knowing that if he went further than Hendry he would return to no.1 spot in the official world rankings.
They met in the semis – what a shame they never contested a Crucible final – and Davis led 9-8 before Hendry pulled away to beat him 16-9.
Davis managed one more quarter-final appearance until he was relegated from the top 16 in 2000. For two years he failed to qualify but returned in 2003.
I remember him sitting in the pressroom in Malta a couple of months before the 2005 championship, the last to be sponsored by Embassy.
He said he didn’t really practise much but that he would be putting the hours in for the World Championship, out of deference to the departing Imperial Tobacco.
Davis duly reached the quarter-finals at the age of 47, an admirable feat in its own right but what followed last year topped it ten fold.
It wasn’t just that he beat John Higgins, it was the way he did it, playing some of the frighteningly hard snooker he employed to put so many opponents to the sword in the 1980s.
The reception he got afterwards was proof of the esteem in which he is now held as the game’s elder statesman.
It all ended against Neil Robertson and it is a great irony that the changes Davis and Hearn have introduced have hastened his decline.
The PTCs are for younger, hungrier players. Davis is sliding down the rankings and, though I suspect he will carry on, it’s hard to see his career continuing for too much longer.
Yet to update a famous Davis quote, it's all there in colour: his triumphs and his glories, the titles and the trophies. As long as people talk about snooker, they will talk about him.
At 53, it seems likely that Steve Davis has walked off the Crucible stage for the last time.
But hasn’t he left us with some wonderful memories?