You can often hear the older generation of NBA players complain about today's league and players. They dislike different things about today's NBA, and the majority of comments are related to the toughness and physicality of the league and how the game is played. One of the NBA's older players and legends with a different approach is Larry Bird, who said he loves the game now and how the league is organized compared to before when he was playing for the Boston Celtics.
In an interview with his former teammate Kevin McHale, Bird mentioned different things he loves about the game today and how it evolved in recent decades. When Bird was playing, playing defense was completely different from today's, in terms of having more physicality and toughness, especially in the paint. There were many cheap shots and dirty plays that are now long gone from the NBA, and Bird believes that is an excellent thing because it allows players to have all the freedom they need to succeed.
First of all, I really like the game now. I think they cleaned it up as far as grabbing and holding, the cheap shots; I think they are really on top of it. When you are out there playing, you like to have the freedom, and they have that now.
Larry Bird, via NBA TV
On top of that, one of the biggest advantages Bird sees is the expansion of the three-point shot and how it changed the game in multiple ways. Back in the '80s, every single NBA team focused a lot of their offense playing from the post. That led to many players occupying the paint, so if you were driving to the basket, with the rules back then, you are sure getting put down on your back.
In Bird's opinion, the popularisation of the three-point line, especially in the last decade, led to players having more space to maneuver, which is an excellent aspect of today's game. It benefits great players even more because it puts their skillset in position to be even more successful on the court.
Obviously, the three-point shot stretched out the court a little bit. I remember when we played, we were worried the middle was so clogged because we really wanted to pound it down inside all the time. Since the three-point line is being taken advantage of, it opened the court up; there is more space out there. Some of the players that have a lot of skill you can see their skill on a nightly basis. We never really worked on it. We didn't guard guys beyond the three-point line. We would stay way underneath, going under every pick. The corner shots and on the top of the key are the shots I liked to take.
Larry Bird, via NBA TV
Even though Bird was a fantastic shooter in his own right, he used other ways to score buckets and was extremely versatile on both ends of the floor. He was renowned as one of the best shooters in the game at that time, and imagine how impactful his game would be if he played in the NBA today. It's also amazing to hear Bird is one of those old-school players who don't hold any grudges and appreciate everything today's players do on the basketball court.