Different eras, playstyles, strategies, stars, and trends characterize the evolution of the NBA. From the start of the league in the 1940s to today, we have seen numerous individuals dominate the game in various ways. From a slow-paced game dominated by big men to an offense-oriented fast-paced game overflown by shooters, the NBA has seen its fair share of change.
You can make a case certain players benefited from playing in their eras, as the game was better suited to their skillset. But if they were put in a different era that emphasizes their weakness more, a lot of players would have been far off their original level. It is only normal, as it's rare for a player to be so good in every aspect of their game to be able to adapt to any era and playstyle.
Only the best of the best can be for sure put in any era of the NBA and be just as dominant, if not even more. The GOAT, Michael Jordan, is one of those players, as his all-around game and mentality just make him competent to dominate no matter what kind of era we are in. There is no arguing that, but who are some other players that have or had the ability to play just as successfully in different eras?
Well, back in 2013, MJ himself shared in an ESPN piece which modern players would have been just as successful if they were playing in the golden age of the NBA when Jordan was playing. MJ wasn't giving out compliments just like that, as he only named four guys he thinks could make it work:
JORDAN PLAYShis new favorite trivia game, asking which current players could be nearly as successful in his era. "Our era," he says over and over again, calling modern players soft, coddled and ill-prepared for the highest level of the game. This is personal to him, since he'll be compared to this generation, and since he has to build a franchise with this generation's players.
"I'll give you a hint," he says. "I can only come up with four."
He lists them: LeBron, Kobe, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki.
Jordan was strict and direct with his choice, but you can't argue the four he named. LeBron is the only player in the race with MJ for the GOAT title, as his psychical advantage would allow him to dominate any era. Kobe is Jordan 2.0 and the best student of MJ's game, as the similarities in their game are freakishly identical. After these two no-brainers, Jordan went with some of the best power forwards ever.
Duncan managed to dominate an era that was getting faster and faster with his methodical and slow-paced playing style, so there is no doubt Duncan would have been just as good back then. And to cap it off, a sweet-shooting big guy like Dirk is the surprise, but I can definitely see him playing without a problem in any era. There are for sure some other players that got snubbed, but these are the best of the best in the GOAT's opinion. Elite company.