The Warriors’ two years of dominance has been accompanied by a chorus of former NBA players downplaying their accomplishments, and by extension the rest of the modern NBA. The Warriors are a jump shooting team; they’re only good because the rules have changed; the current era is weaker than the 1990s; the 1995-96 Bulls would’ve smoked the Warriors. These embarrassing and defensive reactions are so prevalent that even the co-star of a recent Draymond Green commercial and Oakland-native Gary Payton got in on it.
The New Yorker did a short piece this morning on the possibility of the NBA adopting a four-point line, and while you won’t be surprised to read Reggie Miller complaining about kids these days, I was quite surprised by Larry Bird’s acceptance of how the league has evolved and his appraisal of the modern NBA:
“It’s funny how the game has changed,” Bird continued. “And my thinking about it. I was really worried—back sixteen, seventeen years ago—that the little guy didn’t have a spot in the N.B.A. anymore: it was just going to be the big guards like Magic Johnson. But then players started shooting more threes and spacing the court, and everyone wants small guards now. Watching these kids play now, I’m like everybody else: Wow, man. They can really shoot! They have more freedom to get to the basket. The ball moves a little better. These kids are shooting from farther, with more accuracy. Now some teams shoot up around thirty threes a game. My era, you always think that’s the greatest era. But I’m not so sure anymore.”
One of the ways in which Bird is different from everybody linked above is that he’s actually still in the game, as the president of the Indiana Pacers. He wouldn’t be successful at his job if he buried his head in the sand and screamed about the good ol’ days. He has to understand the modern NBA to improve the Pacers, and that has apparently given him a greater appreciation of the current crop of players than many of his peers.