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Real Basketball and the Lack of Defense in today’s NBA

Basketball purists from bygone eras lament the lack of defense and the free flowing offense of today’s NBA.

Basketball purists from bygone eras lament the lack of defense and the free flowing offense of today’s NBA. Us old school cats grew up with real defense being played, the Jordan Rules, whereby the Detroit Pistons fouled MJ hard every time he drove to the basket. I admit that I prefer that type of basketball because only real men can handle that.
I am a huge fan of Allen Iverson, largely because at only 5’11”, if that, and only 165 pounds soaking wet, with wet cornrows too, he took it into the pain against dudes a foot taller and 100 pounds heavier. He got hit, fouled hard, knocked to the ground, got up, took his free throws and willingly did that at least 10 times a game, with no complaints. That’s a dude, a real G.
Today, as my boy SAS of ESPN routinely states, players get called for fouls for passing gas, having bad breath or being anywhere near an offensive player. Its ridiculous. I understand that the league felt the need to increase scoring, but damn man, can a dude actually defend someone without getting called for ticky tack fouls? It takes the joy out of the game when referees’ whistles permanently reside in their mouths. Let the players play. Obviously if a player is fouled hard, you call a foul. But touching a player on the arm whilst he’s shooting is not a foul and should not be called. If you crash into a player yes, it’s a foul. Inadvertent contact should not be called.
I miss the Bad Boy Pistons of the 90s. They were real men who played hard, tough basketball and took no nonsense from anyone. I could go to war with cats like Bill Laimbeer, Isaiah Thomas and that crew. This new lot? Naah, not likely. I make the argument that Lebron has the body that could have handled the physical pounding of the old days but those young skinny dudes like Kevin Durrant would have been pounded to hell or forced to only shoot jumpers from the perimeter. Kawhi’s body suggests that he could have handled the physical nature of the game then but if he does load management today; I don’t think he’d have played full seasons in the 90s.
I love me some Russell Westbrook. The fire in his belly, his competitive fervor, make him another guy I’d take into any fight. He could have played in any era as well. Dudes like Kyrie Irving and Steph Curry would not be as effective in previous eras because the more physical nature of hand checking, arm checking, swatting at your arms, fingers and wrists would have rendered them too banged up to rock the fancy handles or shoot threes from the logo.
And now for the big men. Joel Embid would have been injured all the time like Greg Oden, because if he’s often injured in the 2020’s NBA, dudes like Shaq, Alonzo Mourning, Hakeem, Patrick Ewing and the like would have had him as a permanent fixture on the injury report. Giannis would not have been allowed to Euro Step his way through the paint and would have been slapped around so much in his first few years that he’d have developed a more consistent outside jumper by now.
Now the power forwards. Can you honestly see a guy like Kevin Love having any fun at all against dudes like Karl Malone? I think not. Long days and nights at the office. Well, on the court. Anthony Davis is a guy a like but he too would have had a rough time against cats like Tim Duncan in his prime, David Robinson and some of the other power forwards and centers of yesteryear.
All this to say that the modern NBA is fine, fans like to see lots of points. The league wants ratings and the analytics folks likely prove that higher scoring leads to higher ratings. They also probably get the attention of women, in addition to millennials who have short attention spans. But for basketball purists, seeing both teams scoring 140 points a night is not exciting at all and is not real basketball. We have only to look to the playoffs and finals to see teams that scored 120-140 points a night during the regular season struggle to put up 90 because the stakes got higher and opponents started actually playing defense. This, dear NBA and fans, is real basketball, whether its 1990 or 2021.

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