After reading some recent articles that make declarations like, "Kobe's the greatest of all time and whatever you say is wrong!" and "Oscar and Wilt and Bird would never be able to play today!" I decided that something had to be said.
While I have only watched basketball on a regular basis for the past several years, I do have a huge amount of respect for the history of the game and often look for articles and books that document this long and varied history.
I feel as if those in my generation underrate not only the talents of players from past eras, but the struggles they had. Players and fans of today enjoy a golden age of prosperity, calm, and marketing gold.
How would Lebron deal with the racism that Bill Russell faced? How would Stephon Marbury ever get hired by anyone without the landmark Oscar Robertson suit?
Another fact ignored are the way fouls are determined in today's game as opposed to years passed. While one of my favorite players, Steve Nash, benefits greatly from the lack of hand-checking and hard fouls; it is video and recorded fact that today's players do not have to take the kind of punishment previous generations did.
So taking this into mind, along with recent events like the NCAA tournament and Champions League knock out round, I have crafted a two-legged series of contests to see what you think is the best starting five by decade.
I decided to go with four teams since the 1950s and 1970s are considered to be weaker periods of NBA play, while the 60s, 80s, 90s, and 00s are the best remembered and documented.
Remember each game is played twice, once with old style fouls from an era like the 1980s. There is a 3 point line and zone defense is allowed. The other game would be according to current NBA rules which means no hand-checking and lighter fouls.
Take into consideration that scoring will count for something, if you think an older team wins in one round, but not the next, who do you think performed the best in terms of scoring over both.
Now, onto the seeding.
#1 The 90s
While arguments can be made for the 80s being stronger and the even the 60s, I had to give it to a team that will start these players:
At the Point-John Stockton, it could go to some one like Isiah, but I think Stockton is the right pick for the 90s.
At the Two-His Airness, Michael Jordan.
At the Three-Scottie Pippen.
At the Four-Karl Malone, this causes me some consternation since there were other great Power Forwards like Sir Charles, but again, I think it is a pretty good choice.
At the Five-Hakeem "the Dream" Olajuwon, probably the hardest one to tackle considering Ewing, Robinson and Shaq were all pretty good during this era as well. However, Hakeem beat them all and therefore is put into the top spot.
#2 The 80s
Close running for the top two seeds, especially considering many consider this decade to be the best of all time. The line-up in this decade was a bit harder to decide and feel free to tell me that I am wrong about this:
At the One-Magic Johnson. Do I really need to say why?
At the Two-Joe Dumars, harder to decide, but his stats, shooting, and the fact MJ is in the 90s starting five already.
At the Three-Larry Bird, not nearly as straightforward considering Dr. J and James Worthy were also playing at the same time, but again, it should be the consensus pick by a very high margin.
At the Four-Kevin McHale, although putting two centers here was also considered. McHale probably had more moves then any other front court player ever so he gets the nod.
At the Five-Kareem-Abdul Jabbar. Seriously, no inquiries here.
#3 The 1960s
Blasphemy! I can hear the moaning and angry typing already, but when you see this line up, it is very clear that not only do they deserve to be higher than the 00s, but make a case for being better than anyone.
At the One-The Big O. Anyone that can average a triple double through multiple seasons without stat stuffing is amazing.
At the Two-Jerry West. He is the logo for a reason.
At the Three-Elgin Baylor, his career ended tragically at the end, but still an easy choice here.
At the Four and Five-Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain. How could I pass up putting these two together? They would arguably make the best tandem of all time had it ever happened.
#4 The 2000s
Yes, our current generation I think is the weakest crop of the four. While we may have the best athletes to yet play, on a whole, I consider the skills of the other decades to be significantly higher. Compare the best center playing today, Dwight Howard to other guys past. His moves consist of dunk, alley-oop dunk and occasionally spin dunk. Then again, he is young and has a lot of potential, but he is also symptomatic of the times.
At the One-Steve Nash, yes I know, Jason Kidd is bigger and a better defender, but Nash can shoot the lights out and I think he is amongst the top creative geniuses to ever play the game.
At the Two-Kobe Bryant, really no arguing here is there?
At the Three-Lebron James, he's going to be a mismatch to defend, but does he have the skills to lock down the legends of yesteryear?
At the Four-Tim Duncan, the Big Fundamental looks to be great in any era considering his high IQ, skill set, and playing style.
At the Five-Shaq, during his prime he was considered to be the most dominant player of all-time, then again, so was Wilt.
I hope you have enjoyed the article, please remember to vote in the poll, and in a week's time the finals should be up. Thanks for reading!