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“This is a tougher era to be successful in” — Scottie Pippen on the modern NBA

It's nice to see a Hall-of-Famer and old head like Pippen compliment modern basketball instead of complaining about its lack of physicality for a change.
Chicago Bulls legend Scottie Pippen

Scottie Pippen

Today's NBA is often criticized for being "soft" or less physical. You'll at least hear a former NBA player or two regularly express how toned down the league has become compared to the 70s, 80s, and 90's when physicality was the name of the game. Gone are the days when hard fouls, trash talk, and taunting didn't merit a technical foul right away. As a result, the NBA has become more conservative with its players in this era.

However, while all the hardcore aspects of the game have toned down a bit, the league has also seen a change in how players approach the game and hone their crafts. For example, the most apparent development in modern basketball is the 3-point shot that players are so fascinated with. Aside from the 3-point line, these players have also been fond of fast-paced basketball and off-ball movement, and prefer mobility and versatility instead of physicality.

Scottie Pippen agrees

As he watched his 21-year-old son take the court as a professional basketball player for the first time in the 2022 Las Vegas Summer League, Scottie Pippen looked back on his time in the league and the difference between then and today's NBA.

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Pippen, who played 17 seasons in the NBA from 1987-2004, said that it's harder to succeed in today's NBA because there are specific skills a player must possess to thrive in this era.

"I think that watching these players, the stamina, the pace of the game, this is a tough game. To keep up with this pace and you got to be able to make shots so if you're not making shots you're going to sit over there with the coach. I think this is a tougher era to be successful in because you need to shoot the basketball and the bottom line is, that there are guys that can get to the hole and create opportunities. The guys that shoot the basketball from range are much more valuable in today's game," Pippen said.

All about pace and shooting.

The stats back up Pippen's claim regarding the increase in the game's speed and shooting over the past couple of years. Since the league started tracking the average pace in the 1973-74 season, teams are running an estimate of 4.1 more possessions in the past five years. And because of this era's thirst for 3-point shooting, the league-wide possessions per game have jumped from 96 to about 101 over the last 10 years.

So yes, it makes sense why Pippen alluded to the modern NBA's pace and shooting, as these play a significant role in determining whether or not a player in this generation can thrive in the league. You see it in the way players groom themselves today — the best big man in the league, namely Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokoumpo, Joel Embiid, and Anthony Davis, are praised for their versatility on the court (shooting, passing, and playmaking skills) instead of their physicality like how the likes of Shaquille O'Neal and Patrick Ewing dominated the NBA back in the day.

It's an entirely different league now, and while the NBA may no longer be the same as it once was, it's nice to see a Hall-of-Famer and old head like Pippen compliment modern basketball instead of complaining about its lack of physicality for a change. 

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