One of the single most significant rule changes in the NBA happened 21 years ago, before the 99/00 season, when hand-checking was taken out. From that season on, "a defender may not make contact with his hands and/or forearms on an offensive player except below the free-throw line extended." If you were a perimeter player, your life got much easier that day.
The result of that rule change is the offensive brand of basketball we are enjoying today. Well, most of us - the older generation got its "I'd see him play like that against Pippen in '96." The funny thing is, Pippen himself believes the rule change improved the game overall. (via The Jump)
It really changed how the game is today, and that's why we see a lot more scoring, a lot more freedom out on the basketball court. It made the game more exciting because the fans want to see guys score the basketball.
Scottie admitted the change shortened his career - without hand-checking the younger, faster players were just too much for him. He did point out he and MJ took pride in playing on both sides of the court. This change put so much emphasis on offense that defensive players, such as Patrick Beverly (as Scottie always reminds us) are overlooked.
As much as I enjoy the motion offense and style of play we see today, there is no dunk, three-pointer or any other offensive play that gets a home crowd going as great, physical team defense that ends in the shot clock going off. A great defense is more difficult these days, but we still had and will have great defensive teams.
One other thing. We always talk about offensive players in comparing eras - how much would MJ score kind-of-thing. We need to start doing the opposite. Who would ever get by Draymond or Beverly if they could play in 1996?