There has been a long-standing debate on which era is better and if certain players can play in different eras. Bleacher Report has even started a series, where they bring two players from different eras through a portal to go head-to-head.
Detroit Piston legend Isiah Thomas has weighed in on a debate surrounding Magic Johnson's ability to compete in the modern NBA. According to Sports Rush, Isiah believes Johnson would have still performed at an incredibly high level, but just not as a guard. In a conversation on NBA Open Court (31:05), he said:
“I think there are some players in the ’80s that couldn’t play in this era. And I think it’s because of the rules.”
“Magic Johnson would have probably played center in this era. Magic Johnson probably wouldn’t be running the point playing high pick and roll.“
Johnson was a high-level scorer, but he is well known for his ability to create open looks for his teammates. Playing as a center with his skillset, he would have revolutionalized the game.
Basketball is ever-changing, and positionless basketball is becoming more prominent, which is why you could argue that Denver Nuggets Nikola Jokic is doing exactly what Johnson would have done had he played in this era. The Nuggets big man is not restricted to cleaning boards and scoring in the paint.
Jokic orchestrates the offense and brings the ball up the court for the team. To further buttress the point, he is leading the Nuggets in points (26.4), rebounds (13.6), assists (6.4), steals (1.2), and blocks (0.9) so far in the 2021-22 NBA season.
While this is all hypothetical, Magic has proved that he can play any position and excel at it. In his rookie year, he had to fill in for an injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the center position for Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals. He finished the game with 42 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists, and 1 block, earning the NBA Finals MVP award. To date, he remains the only rookie to have won the award.