The NBA is no longer basketball as we knew it. It has turned into a 'skills exhibition'. A showcase for offensive talents as it were. True, the NBA almost went under in the 70's from all the fist fighting. Yes, we must classify it as such because just calling it fighting would be an understatement. The last boxing match in the NBA happened in 1977. Yep, Kermits actions that day caused a lot of fans to turn their back on the League. This is why Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were credited with turning the league around in 1979. These guys brought a level of excitement and competition to the NBA unlike any players before them. Most importantly, these guys played against players that aren't allowed to exist in todays NBA. THE ENFORCERS. Names like Rick Mahorn, Charles Oakley, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Bill Laimbeer, James Edwards, Xavier McDaniels, George Lucas, Anthony Mason and Dennis Rodman to name a few of the more serious offenders. These guys were truly feared by opponents, not because they were good players, but because you knew that these guys were hell bent on sending messages to the other team. Sending a message usually meant anyone going to the hole or the paint is going to get put down hard. The coined phrase that was used is "go hard in the paint, leave some paint where paint ain't". Scary, huh? This is the NBA I grew up with,
Magic and Larry don't get any of the credit for being as great as they were. They faced players that carried over from the 70's, like Artis Gilmore and Moses Malone. Hell, Magic played center, in the Finals, as a rookie guard against true 70's centers Daryl Dawkins and Caldwell Jones. AND WON. They call Jordan the GOAT, yet he could never have done what Magic accomplished. Remember, Magic replaced our HOFer Kareem at center, in the Finals. Not to mention he played all five positions to win that ring. That is the true definition of GOAT. Something that no rookie has ever done, before Magic or after. Again, the deception to make it about Jordan showcasing his own talent instead of coveting the true team player and leader. The 20 year old rookie that won Finals MVP.
So yes, the 80's were the last of the true basketball players. After that, it has just gotten easier and easier for these players. Some say the new rules were put in to protect players. Marketing is really the reason. They've commercialized the sport to bring in more revenue. Follow me back in time so we can teach the youth. The NBA used only two refs all the way up until 1988. Magic and Larry had to expect to get a call against an opponent with only 2 refs on the court? And with all those ENFORCERS the league had? Incredible. That means almost an entire decade of missed calls for those guys. I mean, even today fans want one more refs on the court. Focus now, on the pattern about to form. Jordan came into the league in '84, played his entire rookie year. The next year he played 18 games because of injury. As exciting as it was to watch this guy play, I'm sure the league wanted to smooth out the road for Jordan, as we see the league is doing for BronBron with all those offensive no calls.
The league flat out made it easy for the players as opposed to what Magic and Bird had to deal with. The league, however, allowed a by-product of the rule changes to be born. DECEPTION. From the AND1 dribbling to the flop. These moves were not part of the game in the 80's. If your game isn't complete, substitute in one of these plays to bail yourself out of a jam. The HANDCHECK lasted until 1994. Another gift for your great Jordan. That means there was ALWAYS a hand on your hip or waste, whether you had the ball or not. Imagine THAT modern day fans. Imagine being pushed and held and it being legal. Yes, you that argue about refs not making calls these days, I'm talking to you.
The face-up forearm was removed in '97, defensive 3 seconds added in '01. The picture I'm painting here is that the NBA has become pussified for this new generation of ballers. No, not even the mighty Kobe could have competed in the 80's. How can I be so sure? Well, to this day, since Kobe came to the league, who throws the biggest tantrums in the league if a call isn't made. Who flails his arms and argues with the refs as the fast break for the other team starts? Don't come with the "he's not like that anymore" statement. Even if he stopped doing it four years ago, which he hasn't, he's done it his entire first decade in the NBA. Not ragging on Kobe, just the facts. It is what it is. You can't expect one to work hard for something when its a given that it will be given. These days, players look for the whistle, back then, well, you worked hard cause nothing was given.
Jordan averaged over 200 steals per season until he came back from retirement. After he came back with the new rules in '94 of no hand check, what happened? Never went above 200 steals again. I mean, before the rule change, Jordan established himself as the premier defender by securing the top three spots for steals in a season. Of course, they happened when he was allowed to hand check the opponent. Interesting. It goes without saying that the top ten steals records are forever safe.
Yes, Jordan could flat out score, as evidence in the '86-'87 season. But to call him the GOAT is far fetched compared to the defenders and defenses he faced as opposed to what Magic and Bird faced. By the end of Magic and Birds career, the rough play had diminished a lot. After that, they gave the game to Jordan. It went from no hands to no forearm to no touchy. Which brings me full circle to the point that the NBA thrives on deception. You are led to believe that what you are watching are superstars. Whereas, in actuality we are watching a skills exhibition. Who has the best carry the ball move? Best flopper? Best traveler?
You see, its not about being the best team anymore. Its about being the most deceiving. I look at games now under the premise of not who's got the stronger game but who is the best at fooling the refs. This NBA is a watered down version for the masses to enjoy. I don't miss the fights, I miss the all out war like competition. The women should give the WNBA acronym to the men. That way we could call it like it is.
Wimpy New Basketball Association.