Cleat Geeks

Angry Former NBA Players Claim League Is “Watered Down”


As the season has gone on, the success of the Warriors has brought haters out in droves. Golden State breaking the ’96 Bulls hallowed 72 win regular season record has proven to be a sore subject for former players who believe that their era was best. People like T-Mac, Gary Payton, and of course the ubiquitous Charles Barkley are all claiming that today’s NBA is watered down.

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

To be honest I’m not even sure what the hell some of these old men mean by “watered down.” If we look at the 80’s, there were 4 teams to win rings. The Lakers, Celts, 76ers and Pistons all won a ring in that era. The 90’s also saw 4 teams take home rings. The Pistons, Rockets, and Spurs won titles. The Bulls put together two three peats during the decade. Had Michael Jordan not left the league to go hit curve balls, the Bulls very well may have won 8 straight titles, taking the Rockets off the list.

So what does this really tell us? I assert that these facts tell me what I’ve known all along. There are consistently only a handful of teams every year that have a legit shot to win. Living in Phoenix since the early 90’s, I’ve been tortured by the Suns since I was in middle school. They teased the town and fan base with a few 60 win seasons, runs to the West Finals, and even went to the Finals in ’93 led by the gas bag himself, Sir Charles. But did they ever REALLY have a shot at a ring? I’d love to be a diluted homer and say yes, but I live in the real world. The Suns never had a legit shot at a ring, much like the 10 to 15 other squads in the league that make a deep playoff run once in a blue moon.

The league is ruled by superstars. Teams like the Spurs, Lakers (even though they are presently in the toilet), any team with LeBron James, and currently the Warriors, have dominated the last decade or so with multiple wins and or trips to the Finals. Every now and again a team like Dallas rides their superstar to a ring the way the Mavs did with Dirk in 2011, and the 76ers with Dr. J and Moses back in ’83.

So during the last ten years, we’ve seen 5 teams, including the Warriors, win a ring. That says to me that much like any other ten year stretch, a handful of teams have had a chance to win.

If we can discern from these patterns that the number of teams winning titles during a given decade is relatively the same, how can anyone assert that the league is watered down? I feel as if there is a “get off my lawn” mentality with some of these former NBAers. Everyone wants to believe their era was the best, but numbers and the eye ball test don’t substantiate these claims.

Today’s players are faster, more athletic, and have a more diverse skill set than their counterparts from the 80’s and 90’s. Watching a game today makes a game that you could have watched 25 years ago look like it is being played in slow motion. The one glaring difference from this era and those of 20 or 30 years ago is that the game was without a doubt more physical. Players got after each other physically, there were often skirmishes on the court, and a trip into the paint would all but assure that your head would be torn off before you’d be allowed to lay the ball in.

The style of play was without a doubt a tougher brand of ball. But does tougher mean better? For my money, today’s brand of ball is more exciting and the players are more skilled across the board. Certain parts of today’s game (the lack of low post scorers comes to mind) aren’t as good as the 80’s and 90’s, but there are more positives than negatives for me when examining it.

Barkley&JordanHearing retired players coming out of the woodwork to blast today’s game has a bit of the “back in my day” mentality. For me it reeks of a guy who misses the limelight. Most of the guys who are hating on today’s ball are ringless, I’m not sure if this is a coincidence, but it feels that way. To me, no matter the state of the game, Charles Barkley would have something to say about it.

We could poke holes in any of today’s major sports. Whether one argued that the NFL was too pass happy or that the aftermath of steroids has left a bland brand or baseball, arguments are there to be made.

Ask yourself this when considering if today’s NBA is watered down: are LeBron, KD, Westbrook, Curry, CP3, Kawhi, Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving and Paul George not all locks for the NBA Hall of Fame? Are some of them going to be considered all time greats? I think the answer is yes. If this is the case, how can the league be watered down? The NBA has always been a star driven league with a handful of teams who could win it all.

I don’t need parody in the NBA for me to enjoy it. I need to be entertained. I need defining moments. I need greatness. The NBA has all of these elements in spades.

I feel like the readers know where I stand. Maybe you agree, maybe not.

Now that you all now my stance, I’d like to kindly ask T-Mac, Barkley and Payton to GET OFF MY LAWN!!

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