One of the things that NBA fans and media members like doing more than anything else is comparing legends across eras. Just recently, analyst Nick Wright came into the firing line for putting Michael Jordan third on his list of the Top 50 players of the last 50 years. Conversations like this are routine for the NBA fandom, although most would agree that MJ is the greatest basketball player to have ever played in the league.
There are those, though, especially younger fans, who like to make LeBron James' case as the GOAT, suggesting that the NBA is much more talented today than it was back then. While sports science and things of that nature have improved to make athletes better than ever before, there were things in Jordan's era that someone from today's NBA would have struggled to deal with.
Physicality is something that people often talk about. Players could get away with a lot more back in the day than they can today. And Charles Barkley, a rival of MJ's throughout his career, has pointed out an aspect of today's game using James Harden that might have made MJ's amazing stats even more impressive.
(starts at 4:45 minutes):
"You know how many free throws Michael Jordan would shoot today?" Barkley asked. "James Harden is a great player. He shoots 12 a game. But you just can't compare eras because of the physicality."
Harden is known for his ability to draw contact and earn trips to the line. This is something he has been elite at since his days with the Houston Rockets. Considering how tough to guard Michael Jordan was and how the 'Bad Boy' Pistons dealt with his talent, he would have averaged a record number of free throws with today's rules.
Ultimately, what cannot be disputed is the greatness of the athletes of that generation displayed at a time when the league was different from it is now. The brilliance of today's stars is not diminished by it and the sooner fans stop comparing across eras, the better it will be for everyone.