The NBA has undergone a radical transformation of its playing style, with the modern game focusing on spacing, shooting, and versatility. Of course, the Los Angeles Lakers once boasted the best up-tempo offense the game had ever seen.
Comparing today’s NBA to the post-up and isolation-heavy game of the past is difficult, leaving some to wonder whether stars of yesteryear, like Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, would be as successful today.
While Abdul-Jabbar was a member of the Showtime Era Lakers, he wasn’t a consistent presence running the fast break with Magic Johnson.
Nonetheless, during a recent appearance The Herd with Colin Cowherd, Abdul-Jabbar said he believes he could have succeeded in the modern NBA:
“I think if I focused on making 3-point shots, and knew it was crucial to my job, I think I could’ve handled it. I was 1-for-13 in my career, so anytime I took a 3-point shot, it was seriously an anomaly.”
As Abdul-Jabbar notes, an often overlooked aspect of these hypothetical scenarios is that stars of the past trained based on the playing style of their day.
If they were instead brought up working on outside shooting and defensive versatility, the way today’s young players are, then most would likely still find success in the current era. Some may even be better off, as Abdul-Jabbar notes:
“The way that they play the game now, trying to stretch the court like that, guys like Bob McAdoo would’ve thrived in this league. The way the game is set up now, he would’ve been a nightmare for everybody because he could make those shots. But, defensively, you need somebody that can play in the paint. If you don’t have that person on the court, bad things happen.”
Of course, until time travel becomes reality, these discussions about bringing a player from the past into the modern game will only be good for creating interesting debates.
Still, as dominant as Abdul-Jabber was during his day, one can only imagine how unstoppable he would be going against modern defenders, particularly if he indeed were able to develop an outside shot.
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