The NBA used to be dominated by big, tall centers. The offense ran through them. The NBA is now dominated by quick, athletic guards. The modern NBA is a very fast-paced league with an emphasis on shooting. Even centers shoot now, which leaves less room for old-fashioned type centers to succeed today.
Many critics believe modern NBA players would have a tough time competing in other basketball eras due to the drastic difference in physicality. However, the same could be argued the other way around. Great historical players who dominated in their era might not be able to dominate today, either because they can’t shoot or because they would not be able to keep up with the pace of the game.
That being said, there are many NBA stars throughout history that would have dominated today. Here are three former NBA legends who would dominate in the modern era if they played today.
“Pistol” Pete played before his time. Pete Maravich was a gifted NBA talent and is a member of the NBA 75th Anniversary Team. He was a skilled player in all areas of the game, before injuries derailed his career.
Some of Maravich’s best skills are some of the most important skills required of modern guards- shooting, ball-handling, and passing. Pete Maravich was a wizard with the basketball. He was making passes and shots that no other player could perform at the time. Some of his tricks are still difficult for anyone to master.
Maravich had elite shooting range. He was hitting deep shots throughout his career. He was already an effective scorer in the 1970s, averaging as much as 31.1 points in one season and 44.2 points per game in college without a three-point line. If he were awarded an extra point for each deep basket like he would today, he would be a scoring nightmare for opposing teams.
Larry Bird was one of the best players of the 1980s and one of the greatest players in NBA history. Bird had excellent all-around skill for the game. Bird was a prolific scorer and a great playmaker. He was also known for being one of the most clutch athletes to ever play the game.
Once again, the key skill that would help Larry Bird thrive in the modern NBA is his shooting ability. Bird played right around the time where the three-point line was introduced. As a result, the shot was not nearly as popular as it is today. However, Bird could shoot.
Bird shot as high as 42.7 percent from the three-point arc during his 13 season career. If he were able to adjust his game so that he was taking more attempts per game, he would be a prolific scorer in the modern era. As long as he could get open from off-ball screens, that wouldn’t be an issue for Larry Legend.
MJ is widely considered to be the greatest basketball player of all-time. Most of his success came in the 1990’s, but a player with the talent of Michael Jordan could succeed in any era.
Looking specifically at the modern era, Jordan would have been one of the best defensive players in the league. He was a very fast player and would have no problem adjusting to the fast pace of the game. Putting these things together, Jordan would have been a great transition scorer.
Michael Jordan was not particularly known for three-point shooting, mostly because it was not needed in the 90’s. Instead, most of the jumpshots Jordan created for himself were mid range shots. Although the mid range shot is less prevalent today as it was back then, it is still a useful skill. We still see some of the best players in the NBA dominate from the mid range, like Kawhi Leonard and Devin Booker.
Michael Jordan wouldn’t need to be a great three-point shooter to be one of the best players today. However, he probably could develop a decent three-point shot if he wanted to. Jordan had a winning mentality; he could will himself to improve at anything.
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