Cross-era comparisons only work if you’re dealing with people who have historical knowledge and understand there are nuances to the game of basketball. Things like game pace, shot profile, and above all, rule changes dictate the terms of the discussion.
Hall of Famer Dino Rađa understands that very well. He had to play against guys like Bill Laimbeer, Patrick Ewing, and Karl Malone, when the cost of doing business in the paint was a lot higher than it is today. That’s why Rađa points out that while stats are a quantitative measure, they also have a qualitative one.
“Those guys in Oklahoma, the four of them were boxing out so Westbrook could get a rebound and have a triple-double. His triple-double and Oscar Robertson’s triple-double are completely different. Jordan’s 30 and LeBron’s 30 are not the same.”Dino Rađa, Nuggets Srbija
Dino didn’t stop at that but went into the root cause of the inflation of numbers we are witnessing today. Some can be ascribed to pace, the three-point revolution, etc. But the main cause is the primary mover of everything – the almighty dollar. Rađa gave a specific example of how it manifests itself.
“It’s marketing-driven inflation of stats to sell, and it’s selling quite successfully, but all these numbers are inflated. An assist used to be an assist – you pass the ball to a guy, and he scores. Today, everything is an assist. Let’s say you pass to the wing, he makes one dribbling, gets by a guy, and scores – they count it as an assist. Even two dribbles and they count it as an assist.”Dino Rađa, Nuggets Srbija
Rađa has no illusions; the scorer’s table was always a bit more generous to the home team players. But he makes a valid point – rewatch some of the games from Westbrook’s triple-double MVP season and keep your own numbers on assists, then see what he had in the end.
Then we have the rules. Dropping 30 with Oakley and Ewing and their elbows in the paint isn’t the same as dropping 30 with Kevin Durant and Jeff Green as the 4 and 5. Scottie Pippen explained how much of the “offensive revolution” was caused by getting rid of hand checking.
It’s easy to spot someone who only “watches” clips on Twitter and Instagram and then has opinions. But even the people who actually watch regular-season games don’t have the full picture if they didn’t watch 80s and 90s basketball.
Wanna compare guys from different eras? At least invest some time and watch them play. It won’t be difficult to spot the difference.