The evolution of the NBA brought us a vastly different playstyle that resulted in the players coming up changing and completely revamping the picture of the league. Once upon a time playing in the NBA was much more psychical and defense-oriented, as that era is by many old-school basketball fans still considered the best in history. On the other hand, today, the NBA is so fast-paced and offense-oriented that we have numerous highly skillful players that can do it all.
A complete contrast of styles, as which one is better is really a matter of preference. That has divided the NBA fandom into two categories: the old-school rugged game fans that still romanticize about that era and modern fans who love all the highlights, flare, and high-scoring games. But it's not only fans that often voice their frustration with how the game is played today, as even the former players' chip in.
How many times have we heard guys that played in the '70s, 80's and 90's call today's NBA soft? It seems like the majority of the retired players can't accept how the game changed. Maybe it's because they are simply used to the style of play they faced and can't phantom another way to be better. Also, the fact that players today are getting paid much more than the stars of yesterday has something to do with the bitterness.
Well, at least one of the legends still has an appreciation for the NBA today and how the game is being played. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar recently made an appearance on Byron Scott's podcast and talked about how the game is changed by using the example of Giannis Antetokounmpo. The fact a guy so big can take the ball and go coast to coast amazes Jabbar, as he even jokingly said he would be on the bench if he tried something like that in his day:
"I think the 3-point shot has forced everybody to be versatile in the game. Prior to the 3-point shot, as a center, I never left the paint. If I got a rebound on the defensive end, coach would say give it to the guard and go down to the offensive end and get in position for whatever play we're going to run. Now, people learn how to play the game differently. The young man from Milwaukee — Antetokounmpo, oh my goodness. He gets it off the defensive board, and he's almost seven feet. He turns into a guard and attacks the offensive end of the court. If I tried to do that, I would have been sitting on the bench. I would've been over there with John Black keeping stats."
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Off The Dribble: The Byron Scott Podcast
The leading scorer in NBA history is a bit modest with his opinion, as I'm pretty sure he would find his way in any era. But it's still great to see someone as great and accomplished as Kareem share his praises for players today rather than being salty. Sure the defense today is far from what it was, but on the other end, players have become so talented and skilled that more guys than ever can shoot, handle the ball, and score in various ways. The talent level has been unmatched and beautiful to watch, but you can understand why it isn't everyone's cup of tea.
Sometimes the games can get a bit too crazy and predictable due to the lack of defense being played. The game could use a bit of balance and emphasize the defensive side of the floor more, so the vast offensive talent gets more contained and creates much more interesting games. The new rules in place that are punishing offensive players baiting for fouls are definitely a step in the right direction.