There have been a lot of comparisons recently between the players of today and those from previous eras.
With load management becoming the hot topic, some have looked back in amazement at players from yesteryear playing a high number of minutes for so many seasons and rarely missing games.
These days, players seem to get injured at a much higher rate even with the league and teams making a concerted effort to minimize the risks and maximize health and recovery. However, many of those same past All-Star players are paying the price these days as their bodies ultimately broke down.
Los Angeles Lakers legend and current Clippers executive Jerry West recently spoke about this. West revealed that he’s fortunate to not be suffering from any lingering ailments from his playing days, via Sam Amick of The Athletic:
You know what? I will say that, fortunately, I have nothing. Absolutely nothing. I guess, you know, some bodies react differently to all the stress and pressure put on it. But I think the biggest thing is that today if a player plays 40 minutes, that’s a lot. But I think there were five times in my career where I averaged over 40 minutes a game, and so, again, the era was different. You didn’t play on the same courts all the time, and trust me, those make a difference.
To that point, West expressed awe at LeBron James and his ability to stay healthy throughout the majority of his career:
You’re playing on the same court, with better shoes. It might have been even easier (back) then if we would’ve had all those things. But as I say, the pressure and strain that you put on your body – some bodies react differently. And we’re talking about these 6-(foot)-10 guys who weigh 250, 260 pounds… You think about the enormous amount of torque you put on your body when you’re that big. I marvel at LeBron James. My gosh, you just watch him out there and how he gets around the court and, more importantly, all the time that he puts in conditioning and I marvel that, at this age, he’s still able to perform. It’s amazing. He pays attention, and he’s dedicated. That’s why he’s lasted so long, and I think, more importantly, why he’s still one of the great players that the game has ever seen.
This is something that probably isn’t discussed enough when talking about player injuries these days. The size and athleticism of today’s players is unlike anything the league has ever seen and the amount of pressure put on their joints and ligaments in this sport is unreal.
For James to have only suffered his first real injury in his 16th season is absolutely something to marvel at and West — who has seen it all in the NBA — is surely someone who isn’t easily impressed.