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Rick Barry's epic rant ”You take the athlete, give me the guy that knows how to play“

The Golden State Warriors legend took his time to elaborate on everything he finds wrong with today's NBA.
Rick Barry isn't impressed with today's NBA

Rick Barry isn't impressed with today's NBA

Rick Barry is one of the most underappreciated players in NBA history. The reason why is no secret - Barry was a tough guy to get along with. Most of his teammates found him difficult, and that's in large part because The Miami Greyhound calls it as he sees it, and his attitude while doing so is extremely confident, to say the least. That might've sucked for his teammates, but it is amazing for all of us. His latest rant on the modern NBA proves it. 

Team basketball

To give you some context, Barry was at the National Basketball Retired Players Association’s Legends Lounge at NBA All-Star Weekend and shared his thoughts on the game. This wasn't just a "get of my lawn" moment. He said some things are better than before, some aren't. Change and evolution are normal, and Barry understands that. But he did talk about the things that aren't better a bit more than the positives. 

Too much one-on-one a lot of times for a lot of teams, which to me is boring. Play team basketball, pass, cut, move - make the defense make some frkin' decisions. Play unselfishly and play defense. 

Rick Barry, Basketball News

Barry said that's what separates the good teams in the NBA, such as Golden State and Cleveland, "they're a good defensive team." Rick anticipated the comments about being a grumpy old man and pointed out he's not ripping today's NBA to elevate his era. 

The game is simple. This is the way the game was designed to be played. It doesn't matter if you're shooting threes or not. You adjust your defense, you don't go under screens - you jump screens and just take away the three-point shot for most people. Play smart defense and make the other team earn what they're getting. You watch some of these games, the guy is 20 feet from the basket he winds up driving in for a dunk. What are you kidding me??? Where the hell is the defense??

Rick Barry, Basketball News

That's the curse of being a high-level player from the past, I guess. We enjoy the highlight; they get annoyed because they see all the defensive mistakes that made the dunk possible. Barry summed up his overall view of today's game in a single sentence. 

The worst Game 7 in the history of the league

As this was the All-Star weekend, and the 75 anniversary of the NBA was being celebrated, Barry was asked about the evolution of the game. To no one's surprise, the three-point shot was the focal point of his answer. 

Barry's point is simple - the three is a great weapon, but it can't be your entire game plan. “There's more emphasis on three-point shooting, there's too much emphasis on one-on-one stuff. They still sometimes abuse the three-point shot.”

The three-point shot used properly is a great weapon, but it shouldn't be your primary weapon. The Warriors lost a championship because they did nothing but shoot three-point shots in Game 7 against Cleveland when LeBron had that amazing block. Go to the damn basket, get to the free-throw line, put some points on the board!

Rick Barry, Basketball News

To remind you, Berry is a Warriors legend. The title the Dubs won in 1975 with Barry as their leader is still considered one of the biggest upsets in NBA Finals history. That makes this comment even more dramatic. 

That was one of the worst...was probably THE worst last four minutes and forty seconds of NBA Finals Game 7s in the history of the league. One three-point shot by Kyrie Irving, one of two free throws by LeBron James - that was it. It was horrible.

Rick Barry, Basketball News

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Call it by the rulebook

What can be done? The game has changed a lot, and Barry thinks a lot of it is on the officials. Some rules, such as the hand-checking rule, have changed, but it seems Rick thinks more of it is just the fact the refs don't have the courage to properly call the game. 

Get the officials to call it by the rule book. Stop the traveling, stop the carrying of the ball, stop the moving screens. Call the damn game according to the rule book, because the players will adjust. If you're going to allow them to get away with it, well of course I'm going to keep doing it. 

Rick Barry, Basketball News

At this point, I had to accept the fact my opinions and feelings on the game are almost perfectly aligned with a 77-year-old man. Traveling, carrying the ball, setting moving screens are all unfair advantages that go uncalled in a league that already wrote the rulebook in a way that favors the offense.

I charted a game a few years ago, Chicago vs. Atlanta. 59 moving screens, 59! That's insane! I can't even tell you how many times they carried the ball, or how many times they traveled. 

Rick Barry, Basketball News

Barry said that watching the game today, knowing what he knows about basketball and what he was thought about the game and its rules is "an embarrassment." As I said, it's not that Barry doesn't appreciate the athleticism and potential players today have. On the contrary, it's exactly because of that that the need to travel or carry the ball is so frustrating. 

It's an incredible game, the athletes are incredible, what they can do is incredible, but they're getting away with murder. And I blame the officials. 

Rick Barry, Basketball News

Comparing eras

All this has an aura of "back in my day," but Barry is very clear about comparing eras. It makes no sense. The game is so different compared to 20 years ago, let alone Barry's era that - half a century ago. His answer was proof that despite being 77, Rick still has a competitive fire in him. 

People say "Rick, you guys couldn't play today" and I say "You're out of your mind. Are you on drugs?" You know how much better I would be if I was playing today? I had no weightlifting, we had no strength coach, agility coach, no dietitian - we did nothing!

Rick Barry, Basketball News

That's a perfectly logical assumption that most people don't make. If you're projecting guys from the previous era to today, you have to include them having cryo chambers and all that other stuff players today have in your projections. Barry said he would definitely be stronger, faster, would have more endurance, etc. Then with a slight grin, he couldn't hold back, Barry explained why that would make him and his generation quite competitive in that hypothetical scenario. 

All of us would be way better, plus the fact we know how to play [grin]. We actually knew how to run a pick and roll properly. We understood the game. A lot of these players don't understand the game. As good as some of them are, they'd be a lot better if they knew how to use that incredible God-gifted talent that they have. But they don't, because they weren't taught the game properly. 

Rick Barry, Basketball News

This is something I hear a lot from people thinking about Xs and Os. The curse of the AAU system, followed by a one-and-done in college results is tremendous athletes that show up to the NBA without understanding basic team basketball concepts. 

I gotta agree with Mr. Barry - you take the athlete, give me the guy who knows how to play. 

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