Thanks to “The Last Dance,” the world has renewed appreciation for the 80s and 90s era of basketball. With stars like Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, and, of course, Michael Jordan, the NBA saw a surge of stars that put them in the national spotlight.
Perhaps more than any time in their history, the NBA was rich in storylines and star power as attention gradually increased from the sports world.
Of course, it was also much more aggressive and physical back then and it was often that we’d see contact either on a basketball-related play, or a fight breaking out on the court.
Regardless, in terms of the old-school ball, very few are willing to give today’s players a chance to succeed. For many, these “soft” guys today wouldn’t stand a chance.
In 2019, Kobe Bryant explained why that notion is nonsense.
“For scorers like myself and Carmelo and KD, the rules from the ’80s can be more beneficial for us, because you have to be played straight up. You want to double team, you got to come all the way over. So, for us, I don’t care if you hand check us with three hands. If there’s nobody behind you, you’re not going to stop us. So the zone I think cripples some of the top scorers.”
Bryant thinks that because defenses were played straight-up back then, he and other scorers today would have been able to keep track. He isn’t the only one to think that way.
In 2001, Michael Jordan hinted that double-teams and modern-style approaches to the game (like zone defense) would have made it much harder for him to succeed.
If teams were able to play zone defenses, he said, he never would have had the career he did.
The point is, it seemed as if it was easier to score back then. Though one-on-one matchups may have been more physical, they had fewer ways to stop their opponent. Nowadays, teams are able to do more in response to a star going off in a game.
At least, that’s the case Kobe and Michale made. Unfortunately, we’ll never get the chance to really find out.