1714Re: Cross Generational Simulating/Comparisons
- Jan 27, 2003Bob's challenge to prove this got me thinking more about how
basketball has changed in the last 30 years, such that players from
30-50 years ago wouldn't be as successful if they played today -- my
premise being that a guy like Dave DeBusschere or Bailey Howell would
be less effective today than he was then, even after adjusting for
weights, diet, jets, etc.
The more I think about it, the answer is that the talent pool has
There have been three expansions of the pool in NBA history, two well-
known and one not. The first was the breaking of the color bar in the
1950s, which let guys Russell and Chamberlain and the Big O into the
league. The third was the advent of the international player in the
1980s and 1990s, an expansion that is still continuing.
But the one that had the biggest impact and is least talked about is
the second one -- the desegratation of the South.
Try to find a significant African-American player from the South
before 1960. Your list will consist of Sam Jones. All the other guys -
- Wilt, Russell, Big O, etc. -- from the north or west.
By 1970, just six more guys had joined Sam Jones: Wes Unseld, Willis
Reed, Walt Bellamy, Walt Frazier, Elvin Hayes and Lou Hudson.
So there were seven impact African-American players from the South in
the NBA in 1970, and zero international players.
Fast forward to today. The entire Eastern Conference All-Star team
consists of African-Americans from the South. Two of the West's
starters are international, and one other is from the South
(Garnett). That's 8 of the 10 starters in the All-Star game. And if
you thought Shaq should start ahead of Yao it's still 8 out of 10.
None of these guys would have been playing 30-40 years ago, because
their route was blocked. The major universities, most notably
Kentucky, were fielding all-white teams until around 1970, and
using 'one black starter' or similar quotas well afterward. As a
result, the change that started with the arrival of Unseld and
Frazier in the late 60s took 20 years to ripple its way through the
To see how it changed it, make a list of the most dominant players of
the last decade or two and then choose sides:
The international/southern blacks team has:
-- Hakeem Olajuwon. Shaquille O'Neal. Michael Jordan. Charles
Barkley. Scottie Pippen. Clyde Drexler. Alex English. Joe Dumars.
Dale Ellis. Derek Harper. Mo Cheeks. Jeff Malone. Sidney Moncrief.
Robert Parish. Dennis Rodman. Dominique Wilkins. James Worthy. Ray
Allen. Tim Duncan. Dirk Nowitzki. Kevin Garnett. Penny Hardaway.
Allen Iverson. Shawn Kemp. Karl Malone. Toni Kukoc. Antonio McDyess.
Tracy McGrady. Alonzo Mourning. Dikembe Mutombo. Jermaine O'Neal.
Mitch Richmond. Ben Wallace. Arvydas Sabonis.
The white north american/northern blacks team has:
-- Larry Bird. Isiah Thomas. Adrian Dantley. David Robinson. Patrick
Ewing. Kevin Johnson. Magic Johnson. Kobe Bryant. Chris Mullin. Tim
Hardaway. Grant Hill. Jason Kidd. Gary Payton. Stephon Marbury.
Reggie Miller. Steve Nash. Paul Pierce. Glen Rice. David Robinson.
John Stockton. Antoine Walker. Rasheed Wallace. Chris Webber. Kevin
It's no contest, right?
The massive influx of quality players who previously had no access to
the path to the professional game -- either because nobody in their
country played or because of Jim Crow -- is the reason I think there
is a major difference in the quality of play between 30 years ago and
now. More than half the good players in the league simply wouldn't be
there if it was 1970.
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