Is the NBA more talented today? Many NBA fans today think the league today is superior to the talent of the vintage NBA. They will look at numbers, like how current teams score more points than teams scored in the ’90’s. Is today’s NBA really superior to the vintage NBA?
More scoring doesn’t mean NBA is more talented
There are two reasons people think today’s players are better than in the past. There are many fans who feel qualified to discuss the history of the NBA, even though their knowledge doesn’t go beyond the last decade. If it goes that far.
They use stats as a filler to cover for the 5 decades they have no right to give an opinion on. The old games are very accessible in todays data driven world. Vintage NBA games can be found right on YouTube.
How can anyone talk about things they really don’t know about? You want to compare teams and players from the past, put in the work. Know both sides of the story. Build your opinions upon a solid foundation. You can’t watch the NBA today and use stats to cover everything else.
Here’s some reasons why on paper it looks like the current teams are better than the vintage NBA of decades past was.
Hand-checking was eliminated from the game before the 2004-05 season. This had a huge effect. Immediately, the game was vastly changed.
Some people think that in some of the Warriors recent trips to the NBA Finals, Steph Curry choked under the pressure because his offensive output wasn’t the same as in the regular season.
Curry plays in an era without hand checking, this leads me to surmise that he wouldn’t be the same player if he was playing in the vintage NBA, with hand checking and rough tactics.
He has been worn down in more than one season without it.
Reggie Miller’s comments about him averaging 45 points a game weren’t realistic. Miller was a jump shooter. A pure jump shooter isn’t capable of averaging 45. I was watching when he said it live. I don’t think he meant it to be taken literally.
Reggie was trying to point out how much easier it is today on the offensive end. Pointing out what it would’ve been like if he didn’t have to fight off defenders before and after he got the ball. It wouldn’t just be simpler to get a quality look at the net but would also be less tiring and taxing on the shooter as a game and a season wore on.
Many high draft picks, who were considered busts in their era, would have been the stars they were thought to be if they played today. They would have been free, unlike in the vintage NBA, where they had to fight to get freed up.
If anyone reading this doesn’t agree, just go and watch some NBA games from the past. If you still don’t see it, give up or I could break down how to evaluate basketball for you. Just reach out and we’ll figure out how much my time and knowledge is worth.
The only thing I can think to liken this to is the line of scrimmage in football, pre-snap. If the NFL changed the rules, stating the defense must now line up two or three yards deeper from the ball. This would change everything.
Teams would run the ball alot more. It would allow the offensive line to always make first contact on running plays. The defensive line would never be able to get leverage. Not to mention the back would be able to get to full speed every play.
The way defense is played would be altered. You’d have defensive lineman instead of trying to initiate contact, they would avoid it, hoping to catch the back running through the hole. Many defensive lineman would be replaced most likely by linebackers.
Adam Silver’s Rule Changes
Hand-checking changed the game. A few years prior to that, the NBA introduced the defensive 3 second rule. This rule also affected the play of the game.
Then before the 2018-19 season, NBA commissioner Adam Silver passed more rule changes. The biggest change was he told the refs to call more touch fouls. It was more of an order than a rule. He wanted less contact, more touch fouls and he wanted them called consistently. This was not the vintage NBA.
Personally, I don’t mind the change. It doesn’t change the essence of the game in the same way that the lack of being able to separate the ball from the receiver does in football. Just as I’m writing this a targeting call is being called in the Boca Raton Bowl. Most of these penalties are what football is. Removing them destroys the game at its essence.
What I do find problematic
What I do find problematic is the fans on social media, who have this need to compare the different decades to one another. Wait, I screwed up, they want to compare only the NBA’s current players to the other decades. NEWSFLASH, it’s always today’s talent that wins out against the vintage NBA.
Not only does it seem that these fans are of a hive mentality, but they’re very lazy. They look at only statistics as their barometer of reasoning. This leads to skewed opinions. Nothing but misinformation, pure idiocy.
People, the NBA changed its rules in an attempt to increase scoring. Guess what, it worked as designed and planned. When you look at higher scoring games today, it isn’t because the players are better.
If you went and watched these old games, you’d know this. If you watched and still held the same opinion, you’d have better reasoning and I personally would respect that. I’d disagree but I’d respect it.
I refuse to respect people who pretend to be experts but their knowledge only encompasses half of the required information to be able to make an educated opinion.. I’m not 65-years-old either.
When I was young I enjoyed watching the vintage NBA games. The only people out there who have watched as much film as me are probably coaches. The ones who know every team, from every season, going back to the early ’70’s. I didn’t do it to be a know it all. It was because it was what I enjoyed like a movie or T.V show.
Stretching the floor
Today alot of bigs in the NBA can stretch the floor. This means the power-forwards and centers can shoot 3’s, making the opponents bigs come out to the three-point line to guard them. This opens up the lane, amongst other things like spreading the floor.
A common misconception is that this makes today’s players better and more talented than players from the past. It’s true the legends of the game didn’t shoot from beyond the arc much, the game was played differently back then.
Let’s use the ’90’s as an example. Karl Malone, Olajuwon, Barkley, Ewing, David Robinson, these players had more physical talent than anyone today except maybe Anthony Davis. They were already jump shooters, just not taking it out beyond the 3-point line. They were defending the rim.
Barkley was already shooting 3’s and if the game was the way it is today, these players would be stretching the floor too. Defensively they wouldn’t have had any trouble guarding the stretched floor.
In fact, I think many of today’s players would be shocked at how fast they’d move from the paint to the 3-point line. With hops, superior hops.
The other end of the floor
For arguments sake, lets say these historic big men, who regularly shot from 18 feet, somehow they couldn’t shoot 3-pointers.
The current players who stretch the floor, most don’t have a post-game. These guys would punish 2021’s bigs on the block. Some would have to be removed from the game because of how ineffective they would be against these all-time greats.
Rudy Gobert could provide defense against some of these players but he isn’t a stretch player. The only players who stretch the floor and have a post-game, are Anthony Davis and Nikola Jokic. You can include Joel Embiid in there too.
These historic players could put 50 on a good defender easily. Can you imagine Kristaps Porzingas on the blocks with Karl Malone? Hakeem Olajuwon being guarded by Nikola Jokic? Not only would Olajuwon kill him in the post but break him down off the dribble too. Jokic would score some but Dream was a great defender and shot blocker.
The Original Stretch Big
Bob McAdoo wasn’t just the first stretch big, way back in the vintage NBA of the 1970’s, but at his best, he may have been the most lethal to ever do it. That includes Dirk Nowitzki.
Jack Ramsey said of him, ” Bob McAdoo had the full package, an offensive weapon that I don’t think has ever been equaled in the game”.
Magic Johnson called him “Unstoppable”.
Here is a brief look at a few of Bob McAdoo’s stats. Keep in mind his scoring average would have been higher if there was a 3-point line in th vintage NBA days.
1973-74: 30.6 ppg-15.1 reb-1.2 stl-3.3 blk (2nd MVP voting)
1974-75: 34.5 ppg-14.1 reb-1.1 stl-2.1 blk (1975 NBA MVP)
1975-76: 31.1 ppg-12.4 reb-1.2 stl-2.1 blk (2nd NBA MVP)
The Talent of the Teams
The talent of the teams in today’s game is not as good. It’s not even close. This has nothing to do with the talent level of the current players vs. the talent of the vintage NBA.
The great teams from the past couldn’t exist today with the way the cap is structured. The ’80’s Celtics wouldn’t be together in 2021. It wouldn’t work.
The 2020 Lakers might be one of the least talented NBA champions of the last 50 years. They didn’t have much after the two generational players they run with. They wouldn’t stay within 20 points of a deep, talented team like the Celtics.
If you’re thinking “this guy knows nothing about the NBA”! You’re actually the one who lacks the knowledge, this isn’t even really an opinion. As an argument, it’s laughable. What I said before about teaching about the game. Show me the money and lets get it.
Even if you take LeBron and A.D and say they are way better than Boston’s top two players, the Celtics have two more historic hall-of-famers and a bench. Who were the 2020 Lakers third & fourth best players?
Kuzma and take your pick, well they weren’t in the same pantheon as Kevin McHale, Bill Walton, or Dennis Johnson. If James or Davis had a mediocre game, it would be a massacre.
Showtime & the Mailman
This past summer I was on twitter and saw a tweet that stated: Karl Malone wouldn’t make it in today’s NBA. He couldn’t deal with the speed. “He never saw this kind of speed”.
Karl Malone played against Showtime. There is no team in the NBA today running faster than the Showtime Lakers. No player in the NBA ever saw a team as fast or talented as Showtime.
The mailman was one of the biggest, strongest, fastest, power-forwards to ever play the game. He’s the 2nd best power-forward ever.
If I had to explain who he was running the floor, he’s LeBron James without the ball-handling skills. They have the same body type and Malone was stronger. He ran the floor just as fast as LeBron
It shocks me when I see people on social media making posts like this because it’s obvious you never saw the man play or that’s not what you would have said.
Millennials, please believe me when I say human beings didn’t evolve since you became aware. There wasn’t 5,000 years of humanity, then in the last 30 years, an evolution in what we can do athletically. Don’t know why some of you are the way you are but I hope you grow out of it through life lessons.
Honestly with all the data at your fingertips, I’d expect you to be more informed, not less. I guess with that data, cheating by looking at statistics is just easier. It may be easier but what storyline it creates for you in your mind is not real. When Laurence Fishburne told you to select a pill, you chose the wrong one.
I am a basketball fan. I want that to be understood. I’m not a person that is attached to any specific time period. I’m not basing anything on nostalgia.
I’ve just studied all of it and continue to do so now. I’m very excited to watch the Clippers-Lakers season opener in about an hour.
One thing that always sticks out to me is that there are many players in the NBA today that are very one-dimensional. It confuses me how fans see these players and can still say the overall talent is better.
Another misguided idea is that players are more athletic today. There are players who are extremely athletic in the game now, but overall the game has had more high-flying athletes in decades past.
The NBA has generational talents, it has special players who possess a game that has never been seen before. Currently we have LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, Nikola Jokic, and Kevin Durant, just to name a few.. There’s even Ben Simmons who has the same skillset as LeBron minus the shooting. Simmons could be the best player in the world within the next 5 years if he develops a jumper.
Some of these players are just the definition of greatness like LeBron or Kevin Durant. Others have a skill unseen that makes them truly unique like Nikola Jokic’s passing.
What some fans don’t seem to understand is that every generation or decade had these players. I’m not talking about players who were one of a kind, then duplicated by today’s players. No! I’m referring to players who’s game hasn’t been seen since.
Nobody has the 48 inch vertical leap David Skywalker had. Guinness world record. Nobody floats through the air like Jordan or Dominique Wilkins. Nobody is pushing the ball like Magic did. Olajuwon in the post, not even close. Worthy’s hops, maybe a few close but not to his overall unique game.
A players prime is from 27-32, give or take a year. When Shaquille O’Neal hit his prime he dominated the game unlike anyone before him. By domination I’m referring to how you knew the Lakers were going to win the title those years. Nobody had a chance to stop him and they knew it, he knew it, and all the fans knew it. He was unstoppable with the raw power and quick hops he had.
It was a Mike Tyson kind of domination. Where you knew the opposition had nothing for him. From 2000-02, if he had been on about 75% of the teams in the NBA, that is the team that would have 3-peated.
If there was any chance you could match his size, you couldn’t compete with his quickness. If you were able to match his quickness, then you were gonna get dunked on anyway, because you aren’t messing with his power. You might end up in the third row at Staples. Real Rap.
What really made Shaq special wasn’t his size (of course it was his size) but how quick his hops were at his size. Not how high he jumped. How quickly he jumped.
Some of you are like “I get it”. Some people don’t though. I remember back in 2004 I was telling people that O’Neal wasn’t the same because the quick hops were gone. Many didn’t even understand what I was talking about.
“It was actually kind of soft when I played, too. Before I played, that was the real NBA, and I’m sure the guys that played before me would say that’s the real NBA. But before I came in, with Mike playing against Detroit and the Bad Boys – that was the real NBA. I kind of played in the soft era, also. And then of course, with me being dominant, everybody crying about the rules, that just made it more so. But now it’s very soft.”Shaquille O’Neal
Anyone out there dispute the Karl Malone and LeBron comparison I made earlier
Believe when I say Malone didn’t have the handles of LeBron James but getting the ball and getting to the net, same thing. Except Karl was a little stronger.
What’s up Doc
I could keep going
I could keep talking about many of these generational talents. Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan would create a conversation today if they were playing at the same time as Anthony Davis. Who’s the best power-forward in the game today?
I hear people say Larry Bird couldn’t play today. They said that back in 1979 too. They were wrong then as they are now.
They Ain’t Bernard King
There are some good scorers in the NBA today but they ain’t Bernard King. Think James Harden is a good scorer, he’s one of the best right now but he isn’t Bernard King or even in the top 10 all-time.
In 2021 there are some amazingly great players in the game. There have been in every generation. Some role players today wouldn’t make it in the ’80’s. Not that they couldn’t, (some stars today wouldn’t be who they are with hand-checking and the rough play) but some role players wouldn’t even get a second look back then with all the talent.
The greatness of some of the teams back then is something no one playing in the NBA today has ever seen. It’s just not possible the way the cap is to have that much talent or depth on a roster.
Teams like the ’80’s Milwaukee Bucks never even played for a title back then. Today they would have multiple titles. Fans who never saw the teams from these eras, they think those players would be going against something they have never seen before today. Facing off with the current NBA teams. It would be the otherway around.
It’s a simple evaluation of talent and skill. If you get what evaluating talent entails, you get it. If not most likely you just sound stupid.