You may not have noticed this, but the NBA has changed quite a bit in the last 60 years o so. For instance, everyone doesn’t play in black and white anymore. More color. The game is a lot faster and more outside-oriented than it ever has been before. Lots of players from bygone eras would not be able to keep up – athletically or skill-wise – in today’s game. There are some who’s games were so far ahead of their time that they would mesh better than ever today.
For this article, the players being transported to the modern NBA will have been raised in the present, so they will have access to all the modern training techniques and advantages available. Their skill set will remain what it was, just with a modern twist to it. For instance, if Shaq was in this scenario he would not all of the sudden be shooting threes, but rather would stay his leaner Orlando self to better run the floor and switch onto guards. The players must also be retired for a minimum of 10 years. Without further ado, let’s get started.
5. Isiah Thomas – 19.2 points, 9.3 assists, 2.0 steals
The original IT, Thomas was Chris Paul before Chris Paul. He was an outstanding floor general and playmaker. In today’s more spread out offenses, he would have an easier time creating for himself and others. He was not an outstanding three-point shooter – and would be a little undersized at only 6’1 – but his grit and fearlessness would more than make up for that in the modern NBA.
4. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf – 14.6 points, 3.5 assists
The player previously known as Chris Jackson, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was ahead of his time. First playing at LSU with Shaq then continuing on to Denver in the NBA, Abdul-Rauf would thrive in the modern NBA. He could shoot from anywhere with a quick shot, and if he was raised in the current basketball climate would be an even better scorer. Like Steph Curry, supreme confidence and endless hours in the gym allowed him to shoot from anywhere. Abdul-Rauf would be poor man’s Steph in the NBA today.
3. Oscar Robertson – 25.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, 9.5 assists
The original Mr. Triple-Double, Oscar was a beast at the point guard position. Standing 6’5 and built like a brick, Robertson would be PJ Tucker on defense – able to switch onto bigs without a fear of getting bullied. On offense, Robertson would have a Jason Kidd type of game, nearing a triple-double every night. By all accounts, he is the owner of one of the highest basketball IQs in the NBA and would be able to pick apart defenses either by scoring or setting up others.
2. Penny Hardaway – 15.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists
Barely squeezing into the list – he only retired in 2008 – Penny was made for the current NBA. He was a 6’8 point guard with eyes in the back of his head and the ability to score anywhere. His highest three-point percentage was 38%, which he could probably have averaged for his career if it was more relevant during his time as it is today. If his team played a small-ball lineup, Penny could play power forward on defense while being a second point guard on offense.
1. Magic Johnson – 19.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 11.2 assists
Unquestionably #1 on this list, Magic would be Magic in any era. He would be a better all-around Ben Simmons, but with a jump shot that doesn’t look like a catapult misfiring. In the modern era, a 6’9, super athletic point guard screaming down the floor would be nearly unstoppable. If you did send the needed two players to stop him, his unmatched vision would drop the ball into the hands of an open shooter time and time again.
His only knock would be his three-point shot – he only shot 30% for his career- however with modern training techniques and mindset I’m sure he could have shot around 36%, which would be enough to keep the defenses honest.v