The NBA is constantly evolving in every aspect, and things have changed dramatically in how the game is played in the last ten years, let alone a few decades ago. Former NBA player and an absolute legend of the game Julius Erving also known as ‘Doctor J,’ made a guest appearance on the Posted Up podcast where he talked about the evolution of the NBA and how it’s different than 30-40 years ago when he was still active in the league.
The most significant apparent difference is the number of three-point shots that players/teams are taking compared to just a decade ago, let alone the 80’s or the 90’s. When the three-point shot was introduced, Erving said teams only used it if they were down in a game by a significant margin and wanted to initiate a comeback. Nowadays, that is different, and most teams have game plans in which they heavily rely on those shots, literally living or dying with the three-point shot. Only a handful of teams have other options which revolve around scoring in the post or from the mid-range.
When I was first introduced to it, it was a thing that allowed you to come back in games if you are down a lot. Three-pointers could also help you expand your lead. So there were different strategies employed in the early days in the ’70s, and now it’s a part of a basic game plan. Everybody shoots threes, and some defenses say I’m going to let this guy shoot threes because he will make 2 out of 10. But the other guy can make 7 out of 10, so we have to get up and turn him into a driver to the basket.Julius Erving, via Posted Up
Erving argues that the difference in the rules implemented in today’s game inherently brings various strategies teams need to enforce to get the best outcome. Unlike other older NBA players who mostly have nothing positive to say about today’s game and believe things were better back then, Erving believes players nowadays are more skilled than ever. However, he does say the game is softer than before, which is true, but he acknowledges that it’s still exciting to watch, especially since the skillset players have today is higher than before.
In terms of game plans, right at the beginning, you have to know the personnel. You have to know your personnel, you have to know the other team’s personnel, and then you have to devise a team strategy to try and get them out of the position to have it their way. It’s all part of how basketball is played now. Basketball is played differently. I think it’s a softer game, but it’s exciting as it’s always been, and it’s a skill competition.Julius Erving, via Posted Up