Xavier McDaniel describes the physicality and toughness of the NBA in the ’80s and ’90s
I got into 13,14 fights

Xavier McDaniel describes the physicality and toughness of the NBA in the ’80s and ’90s

Former NBA player Xavier McDaniel was one of those old school type of guys who took pride in playing hard on every possession and wasn’t letting anybody intimidate him on the floor. McDaniel was hard-nosed, and ever since he came into the NBA back as a member of the Seattle Supersonics, he made a name for himself as someone you don’t want to mess around.

NBA was way different 30 years ago, and older players would often test the younger and up and coming guys in their rookie seasons to see how tough they are and whether they can handle the pressure. According to McDaniel, when he first came into the league, he got into many fights because other players would test him. Because of his upbringing and hot-headed personality, he didn’t back out from these challenges.

In my first year, I got into about 13,14 fights. Everybody was trying me, and I felt like when the bullies come and you don’t stand up to the bullies, they’ll keep doing it. I fought back. Rod Thorn would say X, you gotta walk away. I said shit, from where I’m from, you don’t walk away from people where I’m from. If you don’t stand your ground, they will continue.

Xavier McDaniel

In the ’80s and the ’90s, every great championship-caliber team had a guy on a team that would serve in the role of an ‘enforcer.’ These guys would often physically impose their impact on the game and do the dirty work when it comes to protecting the best players from opponents. That would often result in fights or scuffles at best.

NBA was much more physical back in the day, which meant that the best players were usually targets, and McDaniel remembers how it was for Michael Jordan after he made a name for himself in the league. Luckily for him, he had Charles Oakley on the Bulls at that time, who was the real-life example of a true enforcer on an NBA team. Teams weren’t willing to confront Jordan because everyone knew they would have to go through Oakley first, which wasn’t a great idea considering his reputation.

So my second year, I didn’t get in that many fights cuz they knew this dude was going to fight. That’s one thing about the NBA, and they will test you to see how far they can go and if you don’t respond back then, they’re going to keep doing it. When Mike had proved he was great, they started beating him up. But when Oakley came, they stopped hitting Mike cuz they knew they would have to deal with Oak. When Oak left, who was that tough guy? Mike had to play through it. I wasn’t playing through it, I was setting the stage that I belong here, but I’m not going to take anybody crap, and if you wanna start it, imma finish it.

Xavier McDaniel

McDaniel had a different mindset, and his way of doing settling things on the court was simple. If someone started an altercation with him, they were supposed to be ready for all the heat he would bring their way. In that regard, McDaniel was different because he served as an enforcer for himself and other players on his team. However, that has changed throughout the years, and players like Charles Oakley and McDaniel are a dying breed in the NBA today. A few players have that similar role within their teams, but it’s nothing like what it used to be in the ’80s or the ’90s