Unlike any other professional sport, the NBA is happy to put older players who seem to hate the modern game on some of its biggest stages.
Enter TNT’s Charles Barkley. He’s been on the Bill Simmons podcast and the NBA’s online offseason debate about the greatest point guard ever – Stephen Curry Or Magic Johnson — brought up when Barkley talked about how the Pistons’ bad boy “breaks” Curry.
“Can you imagine the bad boys beating him. Bill, can you imagine that? As much as I love Steph Curry, if you think he can take the beating that John Sully, Dennis Rodman, Bill Laimber, those body checks they put on Michael [Jordan] And Scotty [Pippen] And me and guys like that, do you really think Steph Curry won’t break?”
The argument that today’s players could not adapt to the physical conditions allowed in previous eras is lazy and flawed in two ways.
First, Curry in particular — and many other players today — are a lot tougher than Barkley would like to admit. Look at it this way, Curry is officially listed as 6’2″ and he now plays around 195-200 pounds. Who were the best point guards of that era? John Stockton (6’1, 170), Barkley’s teammate Kevin Johnson (6’1″, 180), Mark Price 6′, 170″, Barkley’s TNT partner, Kenny Smith (6’3, 170), John Starks (6′ 3, 180), and then there are 6. ‘7, 185 Reggie Miller. Those guys and a whole lot more had no problem against the Bad Boy Pistons.
Second, Barkley doesn’t talk about other aspects of the game’s evolution — Bill Laimber played outside the court with the Warriors’ shooting and spacing, he was exposed in high pick-and-rolls. I like Rick Mahorn, he could pull hard, and James Edwards and some of the other greats were products of their time. For the record, Dennis Rodman could play and defend in any era.
That’s not even getting into how this generation’s athletes—in any sport—are bigger/stronger/faster than previous generations, thanks to advances in training, medical science, diet, and more.
Was the game more physical in the late 1980s/early 1990s? The Bad Boy Pistons undoubtedly have two rings and a well-deserved place in NBA legend. They are legendary for a reason.
So are Curry and the Warriors — an example of the game in their generation. It’s boring to listen to older voices trying to promote themselves and their era – when they don’t need to – by taking shots at the current voice.
Curry would be a superstar in any era. So is Barkley. The need to support old eras of gaming as superior because that’s what people grew up with is just intellectually lazy. I wish some NBA analysts could get past that.