One of the main reasons why cross-era comparisons are pointless is the fact we can’t account for different rules from different eras. Most legends of the game will tell you getting rid of hand checking fundamentally changed the game. As is often in life, sometimes it’s just about being in the right place at the right time.
This is where knowing your history becomes extremely valuable. We often talk about “7 seconds or less” as revolutionary. That’s absolutely true, but Mike D’Antoni wasn’t the only coach valuing shooting and three-pointers. Stan Van Gundy made an equal contribution in Orlando with prime Dwight Howard and four shooters on the floor.
Just look at all the teams Don Nelson coached, or the Showtime Lakers from Paul Westphal’s time. Pace-and-space has been around for a while, and it depends on two things – talent and rules. Every era had a coach who realized the value of pace, shooting, and threes. But you couldn’t win in the playoffs that way. At least not for a long time.
The Warriors changed that. It’s easy to forget that only five years ago, Charles Barkley was the spokesman of a large group still claiming you can’t win a championship with a jump-shooting team. Today you can’t win without them. Bryant Stith summed it up beautifully.
The game today is so different than when I played. I played in an era where it was so physical. Strength was of an essence. You had to be big and strong to be able to play against the physicality of a player in my position, like Michael Jordan. Gradually over the years, it became more of a European-style of game. It was more of a free motion, and the advantage was given to the offensive player rather than the defensive player. That’s a reason why, if a guy like Mahmoud Abdul Rauf played in today’s game, I really believe that we would’ve had a carbon copy of a player like Steph Curry. He was just before his time.Bryant Stith
Stith is not exaggerating. The only year Abdul Rauf was allowed to take more than 5 threes a game, he shot 39.2% from deep. Free throws are considered to be the best predictor of someone’s shooting ability, right? Mahmoud was a career 90% shooter from the free-throw line; in ’93/’94, he shot 95.7% from the charity stripe.
None of this is meant to take anything away from Steph Curry. No one can say they would’ve been that level of a shooter and player if only they played in 2015 and not 1995. We should just appreciate the game and the players more for what they were in their time and not what they could’ve been if we had a time machine.