posted on Apr, 12 2006 @ 12:56 AM
I grew up in the 1980's and remember the great basketball that went on in that time. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson revitalized a league that was
languishing. Because of their performances, the NBA got the television deals it needed and found its ambassadors for the game. Since the mid-1990's,
though, the NBA has steadily declined in quality of play. Without a doubt, one of the influences was expansion, which watered down the league's
overall talent. Certainly free agency played a part as well, preventing many teams from establishing any long term success. But I think the biggest
contributor was the move toward younger and younger players. What was considered ground-breaking back in 1974 (when Moses Malone went straight from
college to the old ABA) is now commonplace. Each year there seem to be more and more high school players turning pro. Also, there are an increasing
number of college stars who are leaving after freshman and sophomore seasons. The level of talent in the NBA is just eroding.
Think of some of the greatest players in the last 20 years. Larry Bird played for Indiana State for three years (after sitting out a year as a
transfer). Michael Jordan went to college for three years, as did Hakeem Olajuwon and Charles Barkley. John Stockton and Karl Malone went the full
four years. I find it no surprise that the player who has done the most winning in the last ten years--Tim Duncan--went to college four years. Do
you think any of these players would have developed into the players they were without that college experience? Perhaps, but it would have taken them
several years to do so. Jordan scored 28.2 ppg his rookie season; would he have done so coming straight out of high school?
Today's players come into the league younger, with less experience, and worse fundamentals than the greats of 10-20 years ago. Sure, there have been
successes like Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett, but they took a few years to develop; their initial impact was not too noticeable. And while there have
been players like Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James who have had an instant impact, there is always a Kwame Brown for every LeBron. I don't think
these players should be going pro so early. Their game is just not ready.
Today's players just cannot shoot--even the great ones. Look at some of today's high scorers. While Kobe and LeBron have impressive numbers, their
field goal percentages are under 50%. Bryant has never shot better than 50% from the floor in his career. This season there are currently 22 players
with FG% over 50. That's fewer than one per team! I remember back in the 1980's when the Lakers shot over 50% as a team. The 1982-83 championship
76ers team had four starters hitting more then 50% of their shots. Magic's career FG% was over 50, and Bird and Jordan were quite close (49.6 and
49.5, respectively). What has happened? Why do we now have players labeled as "stars", such as Allen Iverson and Jason Kidd, who have had seasons
under 40%? It's pretty bad when your FG% resembles Ty Cobb's batting average.
One of the big changes in recent seasons has been the influx of European players. These players play a different kind of game than the predominantly
African American NBA players. Their fundamentals are so much more sound: shooting, passing, ball-handling. Look at Dirk Nowitzki: a 7' man who can
handle the ball and shoot like a guard. These players come over from Europe with some incredibly honed skills. Remember Arvydas Sabonis? He had to
wait nine years to get into the NBA, and when he did--bad knees and all--he totally schooled the younger players with his shooting and passing skills.
Today's players look like guys playing a pickup game. They just can't play as a team.
Concerning who is or may be the best player ever, I must say that a case can be made for so many people, including Jordan. If you compare him to
Magic or Bird just based on stats, it's pretty even.
Jordan Johnson Bird
PPG 30.1 19.5 24.3
RPG 6.2 7.2 10.0
APG 5.3 11.2 6.3
SPG 2.35 1.90 1.73
BPG 0.83 0.41 0.84
FG% .497 .520 .496
FT% .835 .848 .886
3Pt% .327 .303 .376
In the case of Magic vs. Jordan, Jordan wins PPG, SPG, BPG, and 3Pt%, while Magic takes RPG, APG, FG%, and FT%. In Bird vs. Jordan, Jordan wins PPG
and SPG, while Bird takes RPG, APG, FT%, and 3Pt% (they are approximately even on FG% and BPG.
While these three players were amazing individually, they were even more amazing as a member of a team. These three players have 19 combined Finals
appearances, with 14 titles between them. They knew how to be member of a team and lead a team to victory. That is the reason they were on winning
NBA teams. All three of them could have scored much more per game than they did, but that would not have helped their teams win titles.