I love a good basketball debate, especially when it comes to the topic of today’s current generation of NBA players being able to play in previous generations and vice versa. Many people in my generation believe the 72-10 Chicago Bulls are the greatest team of all time, while the current generation believes the 73-9 Steph Curry led Warriors are the greatest team of all time. The debate between Lebron, Kobe, and MJ for the G.O.A.T title will rage on forever.
But what NBA legend and Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett said in his recent New York Times article with David Marchese has sparked some new dialogue about yesterday’s players.
When asked what was his take on the current state of the NBA, Garnett said:
“The game is at another level. I know you said that you made the team with Vancouver, but I want you to get on a court, sprint corner to corner, stop on a dime and shoot a 3. I want you to do 10 of those. Then I want you to focus on how tired you are. Because these players do that for 48 minutes. I don’t think guys from 20 years ago could play in this game. Twenty years ago, guys used their hands to control players. Now you can’t use your hands. That makes defense damn near impossible. Can you imagine not hand-checking Michael Jordan? Naw. The fact that you can’t touch players gives the offensive player so much flexibility. Defensive players have to take angles away and stuff like that. But if you have any creativity and ambition, you can be a great offensive player in this league. The fadeaways, one-leg runners, the one-leg balance shots — that’s stuff that Dirk Nowitzki brought to our game. And now when I watch Joker play, it feels like he has taken that Dirkness and mixed it with his own talent. And Steph Curry revolutionized things with being able to shoot it from distance with such consistency. Klay Thompson. Dame Lillard. These guards changed the game. I don’t know if even the guards from 20 or 30 years ago could play in this time right here. It’s creative. It’s competitive. It’s saucy. You’ll get dropped! A [expletive] will cross you over and break your A.C.L. these days. The game is in a great place.”
I agree with Garnett, the game is definitely in a great place and defensive hand checking does make a difference. However, I’m not sure this generation’s players are that much more superior to previous generations. Creativity may be at an all-time high within the league but basketball’s best product was always at it’s street roots, thanks to leagues like the Entertainer’s Basketball Classic at Rucker Park, the Goodman League, Dyckman and the Drew League to name a few. The most recent basketball lockout opened the world’s eyes to a brand of basketball most of us had already been familiar with. The NBA has always had creative players, with guys like Earl Monroe, Rod Strickland, Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson, Shaq and Garnett bringing flair and creativity to their respective generations. The NBA itself had not yet embraced the hip hop generation and its new core audience, which required a faster more offensive-minded style of play. The defensive rules were changed and here we are.
But if anyone is qualified to speak on game play, Garnett would be at the top of the list.
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