Your "bridge argument" is persuasive. You may be the only one I've heard make those arguments. A couple clarifications though, Kareem had a more accurate skyhook in the 80's than the 70s. By the 80s, he had perfected that shot to a level that was really unstoppable. It would be unstoppable today.
In the 70s, KAJ had a more varied offensive game. Look at the film. Also, I have no doubt most of the great players in the past would be great players today, but many players from the 50s and some from the 60s would not be able to play in today's league. Look at the film, especially the 50s, the game was much more primitive. It's really pretty clear. If I'm not mistaken, most 50s shooters were still shooting with set shots. Correct? The jump shot was started by a single player in the 50s. Now, c'mon.
Another point is on Wilt and Russel's stats. Anyone really think they could average those stats in today's league? 50ppg? 28rpg? There is a reason for "anomalous" stats like that. Rules maybe, less athletic players on defense, less sophisticated strategies on defense, the pace of the game,things like that.
The point is those type of numbers tend to show sometimes a vast difference in today's NBA, and those eras.
Here again, I am too tired to give a long reply to this. Maybe some other folks might want to chime in.
As for the 50 ppg and 28 rpg seasons,...of course not. Not enough possessions, nor are those players playing 47-48 mpg, either. I don't think any reasonable fan would argue that point. But, Russell and Wilt would be among the best in the league.
As for the other players of the 50's. Take a closer look at footage of Cousy (I won't dig up the YouTube link now.) There is a segment in which he hits two 10-12 ft hook shots...one with each hand. Watch footage of Sharman, who had 3pt range even then.
In fact, go to YouTube, and search for the '62 NBA All-Star game. There were a lot of skilled players playing in that game.
Sure the game has changed since then. But don't you think that the best players of that era would also adjust...especially with all of the benefits that the modern player has?
Anyway...I'll let someone else carry this argument for now.
The players of today, in all sports, are generally bigger, stronger, and faster. Having said that though, basketball is more skills-based, than the other sports. And, as CavsFan has researched, the players of today are about equal in terms of height, as they were even 50 years ago...especially if factor in the "fudging" of height in the last 30 years.
Still, how do explain Larry Bird dominating in a league with Dr. J, Dominque Wilkins, even MJ...in the 80's? I mentioned Swen Nater earlier...a 6-11 white guy...who was outrebounding even Moses, Kareem, Gilmore, and many others in 1980.
And why hasn't James White, or Javale McGee, not been among the best players in the league? And we know that Shaq was 7-1 and 325+ lbs, but look up the name of Priest Lauderdale, who was listed at 7-4 and probably weighed as much as 350+ lbs. How come Lauderdale wasn't putting up "Shaq-like" seasons?
And how about Goodrich? Take a look at the footage that exists. Here was a 6-1 guard, playing against many 6-3+ guards, and still scoring 25+ ppg. He was not only exceptionally quick, he had excellent range,...and, he was driving to the basket as well as anyone that has ever played the game.
I have seen posters scoff at the players of the 60's. They were supposedly short, and unathletic. And yet, just a couple of seasons ago, we had a 6-8 white guy leading the NBA, and by a wide margin, in rebounding. In that same season, a 37 year old, 6-2 white guy, led the league in assists (and in only 33 mpg.) And a 6-11 white guy led the league in bpg. Oh, and a 7-0 white guy won the FMVP. I would contend that if you put together photos of the best players in the 50's, and mixed them in with Love, Nash, Bogut, Dirk, and Korver..., and asked a panel of folks who had never watched an NBA game to pick out the current players...that there would be an equal amount of the 50's players selected.
Another point. Read up on Gus Johnson, who was 6-6 and 230 lbs, and who probably had as high a vertical leap as MJ. Then watch the footage of him on YouTube (in it you will see a guy hitting 15+ ft jump shots with perfect form.) And after all of that, if I were to ask the typical uneducated poster on this forum, what kind of numbers that Gus was putting up in the 60's, I'm sure they would come back with something like 30-20 seasons. And yet, as great a player as Johnson was, he never approached seasons like that. How come? How come as gifted an athlete, and as skilled as he was,...how come he wasn't just abusing the short, skinny, nerdy, white players of the 60's NBA?
Furthermore, how come we have had players like the 6-7 Truck Robinson, or the 6-7 Ben Wallace, or the 6-5 Charles Barkley, or the 6-8 Dennis Rodman, winning rebounding titles in leagues filled with listed seven-footers? How come a 7-2 Kareem, and a 7-1 Shaq, won a combined one rpg title, in 39 combined seasons? Why didn't the 7-4 Mark Eaton, or 7-2 Rik Smits ever come close to winning rebounding titles?
And how do explain Adrian Dantley? 6-4, and 210 lbs, and with only about 15 ft range, and yet, he was putting up several 30+ ppg, .550 FG% seasons? How could Dantley be considered one of the greatest post players of all-time? In leagues that had Kareem, Gilmore, and Moses.
I have had posters claim that the "modern" NBA started with the arrival of Magic and Bird. How do explain that the first four MVPs in the 80's, all played in the 70's? Or that the scoring and rebounding leaders in the first half of the decade of the 80's, all played in the 70's?
Carry that even farther. Take any year you like...and claim that that was the year in which the NBA became what we see today. And I will counter that argument with the players and their numbers, from just the season before.
You can argue that the game has slowly evolved to where it is today. You won't get an argument from me. But, the evolution has been minimal. The players of today, on average, are slightly taller, slightly bigger, slightly more athletic, than those of 30-40-50 years ago. But, the very best players of those eras were clearly as gifted as any of today.
Where are the 2000 Shaq's? Does anyone in their right mind believe that the best centers of the 2013 NBA are better than a prime Shaq? Does anyone really believe that a prime Shaq could not step right into 2013, and pick up where he left off in the 2000 Finals?
How about a '95 Hakeem? How many centers today, are anywhere close to the level that he played at? Does anyone not believe that a '95 Hakeem would be the best center in the game right now?
MJ in the early 90's? Think about this. An old, washed up, shell of what he had been, was still capable of 20 ppg seasons, and 40 point games...in the early 00's.
Magic? How about Magic in '96? He had been out of the league for several years, was fat, out of shape, fighting AIDs, and yet... 15 ppg, 6 rpg, 7 apg, on .466 shooting, and in less than 30 mpg.
By now most here know about a 38-39 year old Kareem just blowing away a young Hakeem and Ewing. And yet, a prime Kareem in the 70's, (and yes, the best player in the game...at least until '79), had his share of "losses" against the likes of Cowens, McAdoo, Gilmore, and Lanier. And he was brutalized by the 6-10 Moses in the majority of their 40 career h2h's (and this was a near-prime Kareem BTW.) So, if there are those that are willing to concede that Kareem would be a force in today's NBA, then how about Cowens, McAdoo, Gilmore, Lanier, and yes, Moses? Oh, and how about a past-his-prime Nate Thurmond reducing Kareem to just awful numbers in the majority of their h2h's? A Thurmond whose peak was in the 60's. And yet a Thurmond who was regarded as only the third, or fourth best center of the 60's (behind Russell, Wilt, and possibly Reed.)
I could go on. Maravich, Barry, Oscar, West, Bellamy, Lucas, Reed, Unseld, Hayes, Monroe, Frazier, Havlicek, Greer, Archibald, Thompson, Dr. J, and many other's. They were just as brilliant against the players that were playing during, and after they retired, as they were against the players who were playing just before they arrived. Why?
Here were the questions I came up with to generate discussion:
Originally Posted by djahjaga
Why are some of the most mind-boggling stats from older eras?
What does that imply about the relative strength of the league then to now?
What does it say about the way basketball (or basketball trends) has evolved or changed?
What are we to make of older players actually saying that players now are faster and stronger*?
How can we compare or make sense of the players/league then to the players/league now?**
*most recently I read that Gail Goodrich said something like this. I would assume he means across the league players are stronger and faster. No one's telling me Wilt wouldn't be one of the most athletic players in the league today.
**if I'm giving you full hypothetical ability, there's no point in saying "You can't compare them."
I think what's interesting is eras run into one another. Look at Kareem for example. He was awesome against Wilt, then was great against Moses Malone, then later even was putting in work against Hakeem and Ewing and still an All-Star Center. But then Hakeem and Ewing were putting major work against guys like Shaq and Zo. So whoever says Kareem wouldn't dominate today is foolish as hell. With the lack of true dominant centers (the position by the way that has the most MVPs I believe), Kareem would dominate even more. Now for guys back in the infancy of the NBA I can't say for sure.
The superstars of the 80's would be superstars in this era. But evolution dictates things get better. So for the lesser players in the L, it's likely many of them couldn't cut it today. But greatness is usually greatness and transcends era. The only question would be HOW GREAT! Even a 40 year old MJ was putting in major work in my book. He wasn't the same MJ we all love, but he was clearly an All-Star player and one of the top SF's in the L. I actually think MJ could have dominated a bit more if he wasn't in that teacher-executive kind of thinking. It's almost as if he came back because he missed AND to teach the young Wizards. I actually think baseball is the main sport where the eras don't mean as much in terms of talent.
I believe Pat Riley stated that someday in the NBA, there would be a team of Magic Johnsons. I haven't seen one since.
And given the fact that there were players shooting .932 from the line in 1959, that virtually everyone today would be doing that? And this past season, the NBA shot .753 from the line. In 1959, the NBA shot .756.
How many other Kareem's have you seen since 1989? Where are those centers today shooting the "sky-hook?"
Where are the Shaq's of 2000? Surely the league would be filled with 7-1 325 lb players by now.
Conversely, how does a 6-8 Kevin Love not only lead the league in rebounding a couple of years ago, and by a wide margin, but at 15.2 rpg in only 36 mpg? BTW, those that saw Jerry Lucas play, would tell you that he was every bit the player that Love is today.
BTW, how many of you have read about Swen Nater? 6-11 white guy, who led the NBA in rebounding in 1980, at 15.0 rpg, and in only 35 mpg. Keep in mind that the NBA averaged 45 rpg that season, and in this past season it was at 42 rpg.
How does a 37 year old, 6-2 Steve Nash lead the league in apg, and in only 33 mpg?
How does a 6-11 Andrew Bogut lead the league in blocks per game three years ago?
And how bad were the defenses of the 60's and 70's in the NBA? Kareem played some 40 h2h games against little known Nate Thurmond (who was a full 6-11, and had a higher standing reach than Chamberlain)...and his career high game was 34 points. Not only that, but he seldom shot 50% in any games against Nate, and his FG% in those games was around 44%.
And take a look at KAJ's FG%'s in the 70's, and when he was at his peak. He had seasons of .539, .529, .518. and even .513 in a season in the middle of the 70's.
How about an old KAJ in the 80's. He was burying the likes of Hakeem on a nightly basis. In ten straight games, a 38-39 year old Kareem averaged 32 ppg on .633 shooting. He also had three games of 40+, including one of 46 points, on 21-30 shooting, and in only 37 minutes. And in the same week he was plastering Hakeem with that 46 point game, he shelled Patrick Ewing with a 40 point game, on 15-22 (while Ewing scored nine points on 3-17 shooting.) This from a KAJ who could barely get off the ground. And in the decade of the 80's, Kareem never shot below .564 (until his last two season and at ages 41 and 42.) He also had his two highest seasons of his career in the 80's, at .604 and .599.
How come Artis Gilmore, at his peak, was shooting .575 in the NBA in the 70's, and yet, in the decade of the 80's, he had six seasons of .618 or better (and another at .597), including seasons of .670 and .652. Think about this...in the 76-77 season, and at age 27, Gilmore averaged 18.6 ppg on .522 shooting. In the 84-85 season, at age 35, Gilmore averaged 19.1 ppg on .623 shooting. BTW, in Gilmore's first ten h2h games against Hakeem, and at ages 35 and 36, he averaged 24 ppg on .677 shooting.
Watch footage of the relatively unknown Dave Cowens, who BTW, outplayed Kareem in a game seven of the Finals. Is someone honestly going to say that he wouldn't be a first-class center in today's NBA? He was "only" 6-9 (and would be over 6-10 in today's NBA), but he was relentless, and had range of up to 20 ft.
Kevin Durant? Had there been a 3pt line back in the 70's, I would be willing to bet that Bob McAdoo would have a near equal in terms of shooting. As it was, McAdoo had a season of 34.5 ppg, in a league that scored 102.6 ppg, on .512 shooting, as well as shooting .805 from the line.
And if there are those that would concede that Kareem could be a great player in today's NBA, then what about the 6-10 Moses Malone? Malone routinely mopped the floor with a near-prime KAJ. In their 40 career h2h's, Moses pounded KAJ, and even moreso in their post-season h2h's.
And centers like Gilmore, McAdoo (who routinely outscored KAJ h2h), Cowens, and Lanier were winning their share of battles with a prime Kareem, too. BTW, how about this: In Wilt's last two seasons, in years in which he seldom even shot the ball, he had 11 h2h games with the 6-11 HOFer Bob Lanier (who would be listed at 7-0 today), and in those 11 games, he averaged 24 ppg on...get this... .784 shooting from the field. And in his last season, and in six h2h games against a prime Kareem, he held Kareem to .450 shooting (while shooting .737 himself.)
Watch footage of Pistol Pete. He put Jason "White Chocolate" Williams to shame in any comparisons between the two. In fact, he did things with a basketball, in the 60's, which have not been duplicaed since. And how about players like Earl Monroe and Tiny Archibald?
Dunking? Look at the footage of David Thompson. He was dunking in eighth grade in the 60's. How about the 5-9 Calvin Murphy, who was dunking in high school. MJ supposedly had a 44+ inch vertical. Google Gus Johnson and "the Nail." Here was a man who was 6-6, 230 lbs, and was shattering NBA backboards, and who probably had a vertical of at least Jordan's.
The point is, even with this supposed "global game", the truly great players, and I mean those with unbelievable skills and/or athleticism, have been very few-and-far-between. You can also make the argument that players like Kobe, LeBron, a peak Dirk, Durant, and a handful of other's, have been special in this era. And you would be right. But let's not act like everyone has had that kind of talent.
And the fact is, basketball has been played since the 1890's. The game has changed little since. It's still played on courts and baskets with the same dimensions, and a same-size ball (although the ball is much better today than what it was 50 years ago.) It is played by the same number of players. And, aside from a couple of major rules changes (the shot-clock in the mid-50's, and the 3pt line in the late 70's), it is essentially played the same way (I know, there have been tweaks with other rules, but for the sake of argument, their impact was limited...and most were put in place in the 50's and before.)
Jlip's earlier response, using PHILA's footage, was right on. Those that claim that dribbling was "weak" in the 60's (and they always use West as an example), has been trashed. There were children in the 60's dribblingn between their legs and behind-their-backs (and the Globetrotters in the 50's were doing so.) There is footage of little known Em Bryant going full court and dribbling behind his back along the way. Here again, Earl the Pearl, and Pisto Pete were doing that stuff in the 60's, as well. Oh, and if West were a poor dribbler, who supposedly couldn't go to his left...just how come the rest of the NBA couldn't figure that out? The man was routinely putting up 40+ point playoff games. In fact, West was often considered the greatest guard in the history of the game by the mid-70's (and in league's which had Monroe, Maravich, Frazier, and Oscar.)
I could go on. Players like Rick Barry, who was essentially Larry Bird before Larry was. Dr. J, who was doing the same spectacular dunks that MJ would do some 10 years later. Bill Sharman, who was as good an outside shooter as we have in the game today (and would be near the very top in FT shooting.) Lucas, who as I mentioned earlier, was every bit the rebounder that Kevin Love is today, and with the same long-range capability (look up the term "Lucas Layup.")
The game has actually changed little, and the greats of the 60's and 70's, would be the greats in the current NBA. And vice-versa.
Epic ass post and you summed it brilliantly!! Usually greatness does transcend eras. The only question is how great would they be. And it's fun to consider Isiah vs. Paul, Bron vs. Bird, Shaq vs. Wilt, Big O vs. Magic, Payton vs. Frazier, Dirk vs. McAdoo, etc. I think people get carried away at times with thinking older players can't keep up.
I keep hearing this bigger, stronger faster thing(on a side note everybody writes it in the same order, never stronger bigger faster, or faster stronger bigger...weird) anyway i keep hearing this, but when? what year did players suddenly start getting "bigger stronger faster? Is it fair to pick on players playing in say 2006 now? Was the league less athletic in 2006? 2007?