QOTD: Is Today's NBA A Better Product?

The other day I read where Kobe Bryant stated that the NBA has changed. I was an '80s baby, and watching the NBA in the mid to late '80s was exciting. A new breed of basketball was born with the emergence of superstars like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan and Isaiah Thomas. It was fun to watch but only because the NBA teams hadn't learned how to defend such dynamic play makers who could take over a game in many different ways.

In the late '80s, NBA play would evolve, and honestly, to me, the late '80s and mid '90s basketball was the best basketball for my liking. Everyone may not agree, but it was fun to watch the defenses adapt to try and stop play makers from making plays. Detroit instituted the Jordan rules that would force the NBA’s hand on how games would be called.

The hand check was the equalizer to the new super athletes. The shooters very rarely got a chance to square up perfectly and shoot because someone was always engaged on the shooter. When you see highlights of guys like Larry Bird, Dominique Wilkins and even Michael Jordan, you see guys shooting with their bodies moving at an angle to create space. Today’s jump shooters don’t have to endure that. Watch Dirk Nowitzki shoot. His body is almost always perfectly square unless he is shooting the one-legged fall-away that he shoots. Most cases, you can draw lines on his body because he is perfectly square.

Today’s NBA players don’t have to endure the bumping and physicality that other greats had to deal with. I'm pretty sure Magic Johnson would be a headache at point guard in today’s NBA. He would practically live at the free throw line because there is no way the smaller NBA guards would be able to stop him from backing down without the ability to push.

Today’s NBA is more European-style basketball. You have stretch 4’s who are just tall shooting guards who play more on the perimeter than they do in the paint. The lack of centers has increased the value of the 3 and the 4 positions. Learning the international game has been essential with the growth of basketball and the Olympics. You can see the influence in how teams draft and also the changing of the way big guys play now.

Today teams try to create mismatches on the wing, and very few players can actually create shots in tight space. The fact that you have to give space to the player makes it much easier to create your own shot now. Imagine how good Jordan would be with today’s NBA rules. You already couldn't touch him; imagine how many more free throws he would shoot the way the game is refereed today.

Television deals and protecting players have become priorities. The more exciting the play, the higher the price you can put on it. I understand why the powers that be wanted to change the game. It makes sense. For those people in their 30s, today’s game is probably better for them. Their recollection of basketball in the '90s would have been high school based, and they themselves wouldn't have seen the evolution from '80s to '90s basketball. It makes sense because offense sells. You see it in NFL football with rule changes, you've seen it in professional soccer and you've seen it in the NHL.

My opinions are simply that, but when I see a hard foul and an ejection that comes after it makes me cringe a little. Hard fouls, no layup rules and being a little afraid to drive into the paint without consequences made the game more like real life. Sometimes you get knocked down, but can you get back up? Sometimes you have to be willing to put it all on the line knowing that it's going to be hard. Today’s NBA is all friends and fun. It’s not the worst product out there by any stretch, but it’s just not what it was, for me at least.

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