Here’s a gem from NBA great and Hall of Fame honoree Larry Bird.
Larry Legend — who along with Magic Johnson revitalized the image and popularity of the league — opined that this era may be the greatest in the history of the NBA.
“It’s funny how the game has changed,” Bird continued. “And my thinking about it. I was really worried—back sixteen, seventeen years ago—that the little guy didn’t have a spot in the N.B.A. anymore: it was just going to be the big guards like Magic Johnson. But then players started shooting more threes and spacing the court, and everyone wants small guards now. Watching these kids play now, I’m like everybody else: Wow, man. They can really shoot! They have more freedom to get to the basket. The ball moves a little better. These kids are shooting from farther, with more accuracy. Now some teams shoot up around thirty threes a game. My era, you always think that’s the greatest era. But I’m not so sure anymore.”
Unlike some past NBA greats — big guys who earned their bread and butter on a more physical style of play –Bird appreciates the beauty, symmetry and rhythm of today’s game. On the other hand, for example, fellow HOF Charles Barkley of TNT sports is often critical of this Steph Curry three point shooting era.
As one sports writer wrote:
A lot of people think Barkley hates the Warriors. Not so. It’s that he’s stuck in a previous era of ball, when size and caveman centers ruled, or at least heavily influenced games.
And another Charles (Oakley) — known for his hyper physical brand of blue collar balling — also chimed in as a non-fan of the modern NBA:
“The mind is not — you don’t have to be strong to play this game no more,” he said.
“I don’t know what it is. They just roll you out there like a basketball. That’s why … you see the same teams in the finals or winning 55 games. Strong teams, strong-minded coach. Just the players, they don’t think it, they don’t know how to play together,” he said. “So that’s one of things I see the weakness is: Communication, the guys don’t love the game. They play the game, but they don’t play with their heart.”
IMHO, the game is much more exciting and global. The game of isolation and one-on-one post ups has evolved into a more pleasing to watch game of ball movement and pin-point accuracy shooting from downtown. Similar to Bird, I am a huge fan of the modern era of NBA.
The best era ever? I can’t say. I appreciate each era on its own merit. From Wilt/Russell to Kareem to Doc J to Bird/Magic to Mike to Kobe/Shaq/Iverson to LBJ the NBA stands on shoulders of giants. And now, once again, on shoulders of lil men as well.