Why it’s silly to compare different eras in the NBA

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It’s a question many of us ask, how would the stars of yesteryear do in the NBA now? Would Jordan be as dominant now? The basketball of today is pretty different to that of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Which itself was completely different from the way the game was played during the ‘50s and ‘60s. We’re looking at why it’s silly to compare eras at all.

Are new players better?

There is an argument that the modern players are just better than those of the past. Athletes continue to get quicker, stronger, and more durable than ever. Then there are improvements in fitness attitude as well as the increasing importance of sports science.

The players’ entire lives are mapped out for them, down to the times they should eat for maximum performance and the downtime for practice they have to recover. High school basketball is better than ever, which is making the players coming through are a level above what came before them.

Hypotheticals

Of course, it’s fair to say if the players of the past had access to the lives we do now they too could have been just as good as the current top players. It’s all hypothetical, but the only fair debate would be to make the conditions the same for all players throughout the history of the NBA, an impossible task. Players now play to a different rule set that has developed over years of trial and error. The game is as fast as it has ever been while the level of skill is through the roof.

Respecting the era

The players who stood out in history have to be taken at face value. They could only compete against what the league had to offer, so it’s not their fault if the competition wasn’t necessarily as good as it is now. Shaq could dominate players who were supposed to be on his level during his career. Transport Shaq back to the ‘60s and he could arguably have at least another few thousand points on top of his career total.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the all-time top scorer in NBA history, but would he be able to score that many again if his career was to start tomorrow? Possibly not as the standards are higher, but that doesn’t mean we should disregard his accomplishments.

Comparisons

Perhaps the fairest way to compare different eras is to say who in the current game is most like a star of the past. The greatest of all-time Michael Jordan was a once in a lifetime player, but some were similar. Kobe Bryant pretty much based his game on the legendary star and is as close to Jordan that we’ve seen. Current stars such as Kawhi Leonard and DeMar DeRozan are arguably as close to the legend that we have in today’s NBA.

It’s hard to compare past eras in the NBA to the current generation of players as the levels are completely different. With rule changes and increases in fitness, the sport is almost completely different then to what we see today.

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