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Ten NBA Legends Who Would Be Average Today
After the critically acclaimed 10-part Michael Jordan documentary, “The Last Dance” aired on ESPN this past spring, it begged the question: Would today’s NBA legends be able to survive playing in today’s game? Maybe yes, and maybe no.
As every basketball fan knows, there are many factors that go into what makes an NBA player great. Change in how the game is played and its rules, all contribute to how a legend would play in the year 2021.
So, what NBA legends would most likely only play average if we transported them to a current NBA game? Let’s take a look (in no particular order):
1. Magic Johnson: Yes, Magic Johnson won five NBA championships. He is mostly known for his size, as well as his passing ability. However, it took several years for him to become a good outside shooter, which wouldn’t be afforded to him in today’s game. As well his lack of strong shot would hurt him. With all that said, one could argue he would be a great player/facilitator in 2021.
2. Shaquille O’Neal: If you are thinking this is a stretch, Shaq was a fantastic player, don’t get us wrong, but he would struggle because he can’t shoot as well as most players today. As well, he wasn’t known for being the best passing man in his era. However, Shaq would disagree, he himself said he would average 40 points per game in today’s NBA. We would love to see that and eat our words!
3. George Mikan: Nicknamed, “Mr. Basketball”, George Mikan was known for being the pioneer of modern aged basketball. He was the NBA’s first superstar and was the start of NBA’s first dynasty. Today’s game, however, is much faster, and the players are even stronger. Mikan, although a dominating and large player at 6’10” would most likely struggle to stay in the game and dominate as he once did.
4. John Stockton: Even though John Stockton had the most assists in his career in NBA history (15,806) and was a great passer, he would struggle in today’s game. He was dependent on the pick and roll. And, much like George Mikan, Stockton would suffer from the players and the game being faster and stronger. If he could only rely on a pick and roll play, he may survive the game, but it just would not be likely in 2021.
5. Wilt Chamberlin: The only player in NBA history to have scored 100 points in one game, would struggle in today’s game for a few reasons. In his earlier career, he was an aggressive player, one that bullied opponents downlow. There also wasn’t much stopping him from getting a basket. Given today’s game rules, changes and strength of players, Chamberlin would fall short. He also was not well known for getting along with his coaches, that would also be an issue today.
6. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was a one-of-a-kind player. He has an unstoppable (and patented) shot, the skyhook, which makes him one of the greats. However, in today’s game, Abdul-Jabbar would be great offensively but struggle with the pacing and small ball of today’s NBA. As well, his size would no longer be as much of an asset to him.
7. Bill Russell: Bill Russell was a fantastic player and won 11 championships during his playing days. Though he was one of the first players to use alley-oops, he would struggle in today’s era where the big man needs to develop a strong outside shot. Unfortunately, as a player, Russel had little range and a mediocre jump.
8. Charles Barkley: Charles Barkley is one of the best pure rebounders the NBA has seen. However, in today’s game withs stronger, faster and bigger athletes, Barkley would struggle being a power forward against today’s game forwards. He may also have a hard time with switches against faster guards and centers.
9. Karl Malone: Another player who used the pick and roll play to his advantage (he played with John Stockton), Karl Malone was known as the most lethal back in his day with this play. As we know from John Stockton, pick and rolls would not do as well in 2021. Malone also was a very strong player from the mid-range area, using flares close to the free throw line. Unfortunately, this would not fare well in today’s game, and Malone also does not have a large range.
10. Bob Pettit: Bob Pettit, was an all-star for each of his 11 seasons in the NBA back in the 1960s. He was also much smaller than the players of today’s game. Therefore, Pettit would unfortunately struggle guarding in today’s game; not only because of the sheer size of the athletes, but the skill and speed of them.
What NBA players do you think would be just average in today’s game?
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