There was a time when big men ruled the NBA courts like Tyrannosaurus Rex controlling his jungle.
A time when pure hard-nosed defenders and street brawlers like Xavier McDaniel, Charles Oakley, Horace Grant, or Rick Mahorn lined NBA rosters because every NBA team knew you needed that kind of toughness to be a championship team.
At least they used to know it. It seems that time is passing us by and it’s a shame.
Remember when Toni Kukoc first came in the league it was widely believed that his style of play was much too "soft" to become the type of player he was in Croatia and that the Euro players as a whole, especially the post, didn’t have the vigor in their game to withstand the 82-game grind of the league.
Now just about every NBA roster has a player not from America on it. One of the only teams without an overseas player was the Boston Celtics who whipped up on an obviously soft LA Lakers team to claim their title.
Now this year that same team (with the addition of a US born seven footer) is the favorite to win it all; that scares me.
For I rue the day when the NBA has become soft enough where European, Asian or Spanish-born players can lead a team to a championship.
Before I am held as a basketball Hitler just look at the last couple years as an instance...
- Dwyane Wade’s pure grit and determination willed the seemingly defeated Heat to win the '06 title from the Dirk Nowitzki-led Mavericks after being down, 2-0
- Only this year have Yao Ming's Rockets made it out of the first round, and they seem to be doing their biggest damage with Yao once again on the shelf.
- Prior to teaming up with Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson, Pau Gasol was just accumulating stats in Memphis.
There is just a different style of play over there with the trapezoid lanes. Their bigs become proficient face up players and while they are highly skilled they are able to consistently get beat by pure physicality.
It’s not just about the European players though it’s the NBA as a whole. Systems like SSOL and Run n Gun have made the Rodman-esque players somewhat obsolete.
Even the tough guys of today pale in comparison to the past. Anderson Verejao, Nene, Ben Wallace and Bruce Bowen versus Dennis Rodman Xavier McDaniel or Joe Dumars. It’s not even close as to which group I would want to be complementary pieces to my team.
Physicality creates rivalries. It wasn’t the great brand of basketball that made the Boston Atlanta series last playoffs so compelling - it was the fact that each team was willing to get up in each others face and fight for the right to advance.
An important growing point in Michael Jordan’s career was overcoming Detroit and the Jordan rules which may have helped grow that competitive fire that made him so great, a growing point that LeBron James unfortunately may never learn.
The NBA game is getting softer and softer, all in an effort to increase scoring, let superstars shine more and to make the league supposedly more fan-friendly.
I understand the globalization mindset of the league but in doing so they are slowly taking away the NBA that I and many othes had grown up on and fell in love with.
And that is what I fear the most.
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