I don’t care how they explain it, the NBA is too soft. Players hugging and planning to play Fortnite after a game is just wrong. Yes, unlike players in the past, you won’t see as many guys crossing the line sometimes. But if the cost of a more competitive, at times antagonistic NBA is crossing the lines, I’m all for it, and I got Larry Bird and Dr. J on my side.
The obvious shift is the game more and more gravitating towards the three-point line. It’s a switch from what guys like Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant were doing in the ’00s when the game was much more iso-based. Perimeter oriented game has almost completely eliminated the art of the low-post scoring. The species that dominated the league in the ’90s is nearing its extinction, as their only true representative in the NBA today might be Joel Embiid.
When I say the league is changing socially-wise, I’m talking players being able to speak up on different issues. And not only being able to do it but actually wanting to do it. I mean, every player in the Orlando bubble has the opportunity to have some sort of a social justice message on the back of their jerseys. It just goes to show how the NBA is encouraging players to speak up.
In terms of individuals actually wanting to speak up, the NBA has also made a huge leap forward in that sense. You’re only as good as your leader, and when your leader is LeBron James – the most socially involved basketball player we’ve ever seen, guys will be encouraged to follow his lead. Michael Jordan was in the same position but was never as involved as James is. It may be down to the character that MJ is, but the fact is you didn’t hear him talking about stuff outside of basketball. He was the tone-setter, and he’d set the tone of not being socially involved. Most emulated him, with few exceptions, of course. Craig Hodges, for example. No one was stopping that guy from speaking up.
Many would argue that in terms of relationships between players, the NBA has changed for the worse. It feels that the league has become too friendly. Such a shift in a competitive environment is an oxymoron in and of itself, and many are critical of it. Former players seem to be most vocal about the new direction of the NBA, as they simply can’t wrap their heads around it.
Now, how players used to treat each other may be the other extreme. There wasn’t anything friendly about it. In fact, it was hostile. The environment where players want to rip each other’s throats out is the opposite side of the spectrum, and it’s something the league doesn’t want to get back to. But a healthy amount of competitiveness is good for the sport. Not everybody has to get along.
Julies Erving best described the route NBA players have to embark on when he talked about his relationship with Larry Bird. It may be the pattern for a new generation to follow, as it seems like the perfect balance between being competitive and respectful towards other players.
“The irony is we did get along. Is just that when somebody plays for Boston, and somebody else plays for Philly if you get on the court and play with one another, I don’t care if it’s your mother; you’re not supposed to get along.”Julius Erving
The NBA changing is inevitable. A decade or two from now, the league will be in a whole other state, and that’s fine. However, not all changes imply improvement. How do you see these is totally up to you. Here’s my take on them.
I would love NBA basketball not to be so one-dimensional and dependent upon shooting. I love NBA players speaking up on social issues. I would love the players to stop being so friendly. Use Dr. J’s example, guys! Like I said – it’s a perfect balance.
That being said, all we can do now is wait. One thing’s for sure, it won’t always be like this. That’s the beauty of the NBA – it’s a forever changing mechanism.