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Charles Barkley says it's unfair to compare Michael Jordan to this era — “You know how many free throws he would shoot today?”

Just imagine how many fouls Jordan would have drawn against the "Bad Boys" Pistons if the game was officiated the way it is today.
Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan and Phoenix Suns player Charles Barkley

Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley

Two of the strongest arguments many former NBA players have against this generation are 1. how the game was so much more competitive back in the day because of the physicality allowed, and 2. this generation has become too soft because one superstar wants to team up with another.

Often, you'll hear a former player or two defend their case and talk about it in detail, and for this week, Charles Barkley and Dominique Wilkins took the spotlight.

The free-throw disparity

According to Barkley, who recently appeared on the Dan Patrick show, it's unfair for Jordan to be compared to the players in this era because referees are so much more lenient with fouls. The Hall-of-Famer used James Harden's case as an example and said that if Jordan were treated the way Harden is now (in terms of foul baiting and getting to the free-throw line), then MJ would be so much better than what people think.

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"You know how many free throws Michael Jordan would shoot today?" Barkley asked. "James Harden is a great player. He shoots 12 a game. But you just can't compare eras because of the physicality."

In fairness to Barkley, he has a point. Just imagine how many fouls Jordan would have drawn against the Detroit "Bad Boys" Pistons if the game was officiated the way it is today? It doesn't take much investigating to prove that today's era is more conservative with the game's physicality — look how technical fouls are called these days as an example.

Jordan's free-throw average

According to Basketball Reference, Jordan averaged 8.7 free-throw attempts during his 13-year tenure with the Chicago Bulls (let's leave out MJ's Washington stint for apparent reasons). To compare that to today's league, MJ's 8.7 is pretty low in contrast to Joel Embiid's, who led the league with 11.8 attempts a game last season. It also makes sense that the NBA started calling more hand-checking fouls on the perimeter in this era as the game has turned into a shooter's league.

So while Barkely correctly mentioned the disparity of physicality between his and this generation, it's also important to point out what has changed for the better over time. Today's players no longer have to withstand hardcore basketball, but they can argue that shooting, high IQ, and dynamic offensive schemes and skillsets are so much more different this time.

As Barkley's original premise states, it's hard to compare this era to the past because of all the developments that have taken place over time. 


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