The NBA: The Way They Were

Ed DuffyContributor IJune 13, 2009

Undated:  Former NBA star Bill Russell during a basketball game.   Mandatory Credit: Allsport USA/ALLSPORT

It’s inevitable. As you sports fans age, you will look back on your youth and feel the teams of that era were much better than those of the current era.


Personally the NBA is where I look most. Growing up a Boston Celtics fan, I was spoiled.


There was championship after championship.


There were great stars, of course.  Russell, Havlicek, Cowens, Jones, White, and the list goes on.


But it was the teamwork, the fundamental basketball, the unselfish play that I remember so well, and for the most part do not see today.


Obviously the players of today have more natural ability. They are bigger, stronger, faster, jump higher, etc.


They also have so many more advantages the players of the '60s and '70s did not have.


First of all, they don’t need a second job to earn a living. Now, I’m sure a lot of the 20-something’s are wondering what I’m even talking about here.


Yes, they had offseason jobs. They did not make the millions that even the scrubs make today.


Coaching staffs? What staff? The head coach in many cases was not only the only coach—he was the GM, the head scout, the marketing director, and the CFO.


Personal trainers? No.


Nutritionists? The term wasn’t even heard of.


Film sessions? You mean a movie after the game, right?


And yet, this simple game just doesn’t seem the same. Teams today are dominated usually by one star in which the entire game is built around.


Gimme the ball fellas, and get out of the way. Oh, and by the way, if I drive to the hoop I’m going to get fouled anyway. Whether there is one or not.


In the old days most teams had an enforcer; mostly it was the big guy in the middle. You want to come down the lane? You will pay.


A 20 point lead back in the day? Game over. No comebacks from that. Today? It seems like an every other game occurrence. This leads too many hoop fans I know to say, "we just watch the fourth quarter."


ESPN? Huh? Maybe the local news had 15 seconds of highlights. And it sure as heck wasn’t a highlight of a jam with the team up by 20 and then a pic of the jammer pounding his chest.


In those days, you pounded your chest, you got hammered next time down the court.


But, in those days you didn’t do it. There was more respect for the opposition, more humility, more focus on the game.


It was much more about team. Not about me.


This is not to say today’s players don’t care. It’s not to say they can’t play.


Maybe it’s all a bit to easy for them today.


Or maybe it’s all about the cynicism that comes with middle age.