There are ways in which the basketball currently being played in the NBA is an evolved version of the basketball played there a decade or so ago. It really is more open in a bunch of ways, for instance, and as a result there are new possibilities in each game that simply would not have fit in the NBA games I watched as a kid. This isn’t the same thing as saying that the game itself has moved forward, though. It’s moved, all right, either drifted or been driven, surged, or just kind of tidally bobbed. But the assumption that it’s moving in the direction of what could be called improvement is more about belief than any observable thing.
Can the changes that have reshaped basketball over the last decade or so be called a renaissance if the game no longer has room for refrigerator-shaped Rick Mahorn types? One of the fun things about the Guy Remembering endeavor is being reminded not just of players I remember watching—or, just as often, players whose cards I remember having, sorting, trading, and such—but of being reminded of types of players now gone extinct. Mahorn was a dense, deep-bodied big man who built a long career setting picks and appearing mean; with all due respect to Kendrick Perkins, there really aren’t very many of these out there anymore.
This particular pack of ’90-91 Fleer featured a number of players who were memorable not just as Guys but as types—John “Hot Rod” Williams’s empty-calorie frontcourt scoring is as out of fashion today as Mahorn’s unidimensional rectangular-guy stuff, and bowling-ball floater-merchants like Tim Hardaway are always on borrowed time. Bleary and uninterested mega-athletes like Chris Morris, an ur-New Jersey Net and childhood favorite of mine who also showed up in this pack, will always be there. Hersey Hawkins does not belong to any particular type of player that exists or has ever existed—he’s just cool.