How Different Is Old-School NBA vs. the New Era?

Long time NBA fans often bring up the topic about how basketball was different from now, how it was better from now. They have been watching the game longer so they must have a point, right? Well, not necessarily.

In the NBA there has always been a group of people or even a group of former professional players who make comments about the way things have change from when they were playing, and often they make offensive statements towards current players. The most recent examples are Gary Payton stating that he could not have played in this “soft” era, or Oscar Robertson affirming Stephen Curry isn´t that good and his spectacular offense is just a product of poor defense, or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar saying Dirk Nowitzki never was a “dominant” player in any point of his career.

All of these statements have been said within the last year, so it’s clear that there is tension between former NBA superstars and today’s players. This is a very subjective topic so let’s get into facts and arguments.

The Hand-Check Rule

This rule was incorporated to the NBA in the 2004-2005 season and is one of the biggest changes in basketball rules. The hand-check is now a personal foul, but back in the day it was just defense. It consists of a perimeter defender using his hands to push or “check” the ball handler. So guys like MJ, Stockton, Payton, Pippen, which were great defenders had the chance to use their hands to stop the player they were guarding.

The incorporation of this rule it is often use as an argument for people who believe that old school basketball was more physical and aggressive, and that if NBA legends would have had this current rule they would average 30, 40 or even 50 points per game. But that would also mean that they would not be considered as great defenders as they are known now, because they wouldn´t know how to defend without fouling. So this rule doesn’t help either new or old school side.

New York Knicks at Washington Wizards March 1, 2013
New York Knicks at Washington Wizards March 1, 2013

Relying too Much on the 3-Point Shot

The three-pointer was first integrated into the league in the 1980 season. Since then, the popularity and the peruse of being a great shooter has increased, giving us amazing players like Larry Bird, Reggie Miller, Ray Allen and of course, Stephen Curry.

In today´s era the three-pointer is a crucial installment to be considered a superstar or even just a good overall perimeter player, but what a lot of fans are criticizing the current players for is that they use it way too much and that forbids them from developing other areas of their games. That’s not entirely false but if we judge by the numbers, Stephen Curry, in the 2015-2016 regular season, shot 56% from 2-point range. That is crazy good, especially if you consider that Derick Rose in his MVP season shot 48% from the same range. The point is not to discredit Rose but to show that flashy dunks are not always as effective as lay-ups or mid-range jumpers.

Stephen Curry
Warriors at Wizards 02/24/15

With this analysis we didn´t reach a complete and undeniable truth, but that is the point. Nostalgia is something that will be always be present in sports. I mean, who doesn´t miss those epic battles between Magic and Bird? Or watching MJ flying and dunking all over the basketball court? Who doesn´t miss Kobe?

Basketball is a sport that has existed for over 125 years, so it would be obvious to think that it has changed and it will keep changing over the time. The game evolves; it´s impossible to compare Oscar Robertson to Russell Westbrook, they grew up in different times with different rules that required them to do different things, that’s the way basketball works so it’s our responsibility as fans of this amazing sport to step back and just appreciate greatness while we can.

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