This article can also be found at Boston Celtics News Station
Amidst the rampant off-season trade rumors circulating, I thought it would be healthy to take a break from it and do some more annoying era/player comparisons.
Today I decided to pick apart LeBron James' Eastern Conference vs. the Eastern Conference of Larry Bird's era. Though the league's players have developed into athletic and physical freaks, compared to the 1980s, the NBA team's overall roster talent has drastically dropped.
The 1980s brand of basketball was more team oriented, fast paced and high scoring, though watching the games, it often appeared as if the players were competing in slow motion. It's obvious that the athleticism of today, is unparalleled by any era in NBA history.
However, In the 1980s, Larry Bird had to contend with a more stiff level of competition in route to the playoffs and ultimately the NBA Finals.
Let's use the 1987 season as the model for my hypothesis. As opposed to recent history, in the 1980s the Eastern Conference was always stronger then the West.
In 1987, like 2008, The Boston Celtics were looking to repeat as champions. Like 2008, Age and injury got in the way but not before Boston blew through the regular season, ending atop the Eastern Conference, with a 59-23 record.
The Eastern Conference was stacked with names like Doctor J., Charles Barkley, Isiah Thomas, Michael Jordan, Sidney Moncrief, Terry Cummings, Patrick Ewing and Dominique Wilkens.
During the playoffs Boston faced such formidable foes as Michael Jordan, Isiah Thomas and Sidney Moncrief before facing Magic Johnson and the Lakers in the Finals.
Today, though entertaining, the NBA relies heavily on the media "hype machine" to promote televised games and playoff series. Sure, hype existed in the 1980s as well, but it was hype backed up by true excitement on the court.
For example, in the 1987 playoffs, The Celtics swept the Chicago Bulls and then was forced into seven game squeakers before narrowly defeating Milwaukee and Detroit.
Both series created such historic moments as Larry Bird's (4) clutch fourth quarter three pointers in game four in Milwaukee, the Celtics 10 point comeback vs Milwaukee in the last three minutes of game seven, Adrian Dantley and Vinnie Johnson's on court collision in game seven that resulted in Dantley being carried off on a stretcher and, of course, Bird stealing the ball from Isiah Thomas in game five.
NBA Playoff Basketball at it's best. Where amazing originated...
In 2009, With the exception of the Boston/Chicago series (certainly one of the best first round series of all time), the Eastern Conference consisted of two sweeps, two six game series, and Orlando's game seven blow out of Boston at home.
The Miami/Atlanta series went seven games but it might as well have been a sweep as the winning team won by an average margin of 15 points.
Sure, their were exciting moments, such as Ray Allen's 50 point explosion versus Chicago and multiple clutch jumpers, Big Baby's 17 footer vs Orlando, LeBron's game two heroics versus Orlando and "Turkish Jordan's" multiple clutch shots.
If you think about it, with the exception of LeBron's game two heroics, I can't see the NBA playing any commercials of highlights from this years playoffs twenty years from now. Yet Larry Bird's steal and Magic Johnson's "Jr hook" are still getting commercialized 22 years later. Now that's amazing!
In conclusion, though the NBA has great talent today and is very popular, Nothing can compare to the legacy's created during the 1980's. I guess that is why they call it the NBA's "Golden Era"...