The NBA is not what it used to be.
A game dominated by big men and under-the-rim play has transformed into a shooters league, run by smaller guards who can pull up and score from the perimeter.
And while some league legends attest they would still dominate today’s game, not all of them are so sure. Among them is Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutombo, who suggests the new state of the NBA would have made it a lot harder for him to succeed.
“I don’t know if I would’ve been fit properly in this system today,” Mutombo said. “When I played with the Hawks, it was about getting the ball to Steve Smith, when I to Philly it was about getting the ball to Allen Iverson. Everybody had a different role but I think it has changed today.”
Dikembe enjoyed a stellar career from 1991-2009, averaging 9.8 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks. The 7-foot-2 center was a four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year (1995, 1997, 1998, 2001) and averaged three or more blocks per game in eight separate seasons. He is widely considered to be among the greatest defensive rim protectors in league history.
Still, even he admitted that he isn’t sure how that would translate to the game today. We are seeing it become almost a requirement for big men to shoot nowadays, and that low-post, grit-and-grind playstyle that Dikembe was so good at is a thing of the past.
The league has just changed, and not everybody would have been able to adapt.