Basketball

The Issues With Comparing NBA Eras

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It isn’t the first time Draymond Green has found himself in the news because of something he said. This time, partly because he refuted his own advice by comparing eras. Within Green’s sometimes chaotic and contradicting rants, there’s usually something worth listening to and this instance was no different as Green took on comparing NBA eras.

The tweet above was the first in Green’s rant on why the Warriors would demolish the 90’s Bulls. The irony in all of it is painfully obvious – why is Green saying it’s dumb to compare NBA eras only to immediately compare teams from two different NBA eras in his next few tweets?

Green’s message may have held more weight if he didn’t do exactly what he said was dumb shortly after, but that shouldn’t take away from the fact that he’s right. It is dumb to compare NBA eras; Green is spot on with that take.

The Game Changes in Different NBA Eras

One of the biggest reasons why it’s so difficult to compare the two NBA eras at odds here is because of the sheer number of three-pointers that are launched up in today’s game. As Green pointed out in his rant, the three-point line was mostly a last resort in the 90s NBA era of basketball.

Mathematically, the Warriors would already have a massive advantage because of the way the game has evolved. Golden State averaged 39.4 3PA per game this past season, which is more than double what the 1995-96 Bulls averaged per game (16.5). It’s nearly impossible to compare NBA eras when the play style are so drastically different.

The Bulls’ defence, as excellent as it was, never saw faced an offensive system like the one the Warriors run. And not to take away from the great players those Bulls teams ran into, but they never saw a backcourt with the explosiveness that Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry possess.

Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars averaged 2 three-point attempts per game combined in the 1990-91 season (the year Jordan’s Bulls beat them in the ECF and went on to win their first NBA title). This past season, Thompson and Curry combined for 8.1 three-pointers made per game.

This isn’t to argue that the Warriors would win a seven-game series against those Bulls teams – it’s to illustrate the drastic differences between the two eras in comparison.

Curry and Thompson don’t have to deal with the physicality of the 90’s game, which makes comparing NBA eras almost impossible in this case. There’s no hand checking allowed or anything along those lines in the modern NBA era. There were no three-second violations in the 90’s game. The rules of the game now and then are starkly different.

And the Warriors sure as heck haven’t run into anyone as dominant on the glass as Dennis Rodman. Nor did they ever run into a perimeter defensive duo as talented as Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan.

No matter what side of the argument people want to choose, there are flaws in each of them. And no matter which NBA eras you want to compare different teams or players from, it’s going to be nearly impossible to deliver an argument that isn’t flawed in some way or another because of the way the game inevitably evolves over time. So why not celebrate dynasties and great players for what they are?

If it wasn’t for Jordan’s NBA era this league may not even have been around for Green and this Warriors dynasty. And if it wasn’t for Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, the foundation wouldn’t have been there for Jordan to accomplish what he accomplished both on and off the court. And you can continue all the way down the list going back to the founding of the NBA.

The game evolves and it’s a magnificent thing. So why not cherish each NBA era for what they were/are?

Media Coverage on Comparing NBA Eras

Player and team comparison debates are often generated by people working at television or radio stations looking for things to talk about. Those conversations certainly have a place in sports; who am I or anyone else to tell people how to go about their fandom?

It’s more about the domination of these topics in the media that is the problem. Green contributes to this sort of problem more so than he’ll ever admit or possibly even realizes. But, the bigger point is extremely valid. Why not hire analysts to actually analyze and teach the game, rather than comparing NBA eras?

If the intent is to market the game itself, then educate your fans – create more discussions on the intricacies of the game rather than debate why one team or player is/was more dominant than another every single day. Maybe the average fan would rather tune into debate shows than get further educated on the game. In March of this year, it was reported that ESPN’s First Take viewership was up 22% from the previous year.

With that being said, it feels like there’s a growing number of people in the same boat as Green, holding the opinion that debate-heavy shows have become tiring.

Sports debates will always be around. It’d be impossible to find a group of sports fans who don’t debate players and teams with each other. Those discussions can be fun, but podcasts like The Draymond Green Show and The Old Man and The Three led by former NBA sniper, J.J. Redick, have taken off for a reason. The game would be in a better place if we had more analysts like Green and Redick and less of the Skip Bayless, Kendrick Perkins mould.

Not that the game is in a bad place – there doesn’t seem to be anything foreseeable that could displace the current state of the league. The amount of supremely talented young players is only growing and the players are what has always kept this league going and is what will always keep this league going.

But if a majority of the league’s prominent media coverage is constantly putting players and teams at odds with each other instead of lauding their personalities, uniqueness and tremendous on-court abilities, it may drive some people away.

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