People are always comparing legends from today's game and legends from eras before, but considering each era of the NBA has been different, it is really hard to compare a guy like Michael Jordan to a player such as LeBron James. Jordan played in a much more physical era than LeBron, however, James has to keep up with better talent on a daily basis, playing against stars such as James Harden, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and much more. The game of basketball is always evolving, and some say the competition has never been better as the league is full of stars at the moment, as we are watching possibly the greatest era of NBA basketball.
In this article, we will be looking at 20 retired NBA legends, 10 of whom who would be able to keep up with the talent in the league today, and 10 of whom who may have been a star during their days, but would struggle in the fast paced league we get to watch today. There is a multitude of factors we will be looking at when we decide if they could succeed in the game today, and this is no knock on these NBA legends.
As always, feel free to leave any comments you have on this article in the comment section below, as we would love to hear your thoughts on this matter of NBA legends playing in today's game.
Here are 10 NBA legends who could succeed in today's game and 10 who would struggle. Enjoy!
20 Succeed: Shaquille O'Neal
Shaquille O'Neal is possibly the most dominant NBA player of all-time, as he really was a man against boys every night he stepped on the hardwood.
He used his giant body to throw his weight around nicely, and he has a game that is not found in most NBA centers in today's game of basketball.
Shaq was a nightmare to play against, and Shaq in his prime today would still be unstoppable. O'Neal would be a problem for opposing teams if he played in the league today during his prime, as he would get buckets in the paint all day long in a era where threes are flying all over the place.
19 Struggle: John Stockton
John Stockton picked defenses apart all throughout his NBA career, and he really is one of the best point-guards to ever play the game of basketball. However, he would be nothing special in today's game, as he would be eaten alive by the incredibly athletic guards we have playing now. The point guard position has evolved quite a bit in the past 20 years and guards today have to be more athletic than ever.
Guys such as Russell Westbrook and John Wall would run circles around him, as he would struggle to score and pass in the athletic league we get to see today.
18 Succeed: Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan was the perfect basketball player in the 80s and 90s, and he would still absolutely dominate in the NBA today. While he probably wouldn't have been the same exact player he was decades ago, if you dropped him in the league today, he still would be one of the best players in the league hands down.
His poor 3-point shooting may pose a slight problem for today's game, but Jordan has so many other factors in his favor.
His athleticism was unmatched back in the 90s, but I feel confident saying there are more athletic players than him in today's game. Despite this, Air Jordan would still be a awesome talent if he played in the NBA now.
17 Struggle: Larry Bird
Larry Bird would not be the legendary player he is known to be if he played in the era of today and not back in the 80s.
Larry Bird was a dominant scorer decades ago, but he would find it would be much harder to score at the rate he did if he played in the NBA today.
The athletic prowess is much more omnipresent now. Offenses today don't run the same way they used to.
Also, the high paced game would have ruined his back faster than the slower game of the 80s, which is why he would struggle if he played in the league now.
16 Succeed: Allen Iverson
If a prime Allen Iverson was dropped into the league today, he would be the top scorer in the league. At 6 feet tall, Iverson dominated back in the early 2000s, and nothing would change if he played in 2018. In fact, if Iverson were around today, he probably would've been an even better player. He would shoot the ball a lot, and that is something we are seeing more in the game today, and the fast paced action would be something Iverson would thrive in. Allen Iverson would succeed in the game today, that is for sure. He might've even had a ring.
15 Struggle: Wilt Chamberlain
Wilt Chamberlain is always left out of the greatest of all time conversation, and it's a valid reason. He played in a league full of small guards and he was easily the biggest guy on the court. While he dominated the league, it was a different era where the talent was nothing like it is today.
Drop a prime Chamberlain in the league today and he would struggle, at least in comparison to how he fared back in his day. The talent at the center position is just so much better than what he faced almost half a century ago.
14 Succeed: Jason Kidd
Jason Kidd had a long NBA career, and played great basketball in a few different eras. Jason Kidd would still be a great point-guard if he played in his prime in today's game, as he has all the tools needed to translate in today's era.
So many players today claim that Kidd was one of their biggest inspirations to how they play today. That just tells you Kidd would've fit right in.
Kidd was one of the first players to be a triple double threat each night, which we are seeing much more in the league now. In fact, he may have been even more dominant.
13 Struggle: Charles Barkley
Charles Barkley was one of the best players in the league back in the 80s and 90s, as he used his immense strength and rebounding ability to put up big numbers each night. Barkley didn't have the length or the athletic ability you would think, but he still was able to be one of the best rebounders of all-time.
He would find it much harder to put up the same stats in the NBA today, as he couldn't shoot the ball from deep, and that's something that is vital to a lot of guys' success in the league now. Also it would be harder for him to throw his weight around, as NBA stars are in the best shape they ever have been.
12 Succeed: Scottie Pippen
Many people think of Scottie Pippen as the side kick to the great Michael Jordan, however, Scottie Pippen was a special player in his own right, and was built to last even if he played in the league today. He could score from inside and out, and was a lengthy defender that we get to see a lot of today in guys like Kawhi Leonard or Kevin Durant. Pippen would put up big numbers if he played on his own team in the league today. He would've been more than capable of leading a team as the superstar, rather than living in his teammate's shadow.
11 Struggle: Steve Nash
Steve Nash was arguably the best point-guard in the league in the mid 2000s, but many people think he was overrated, as he won the MVP award with statistics that were not only matched around the league, but were less than players such as Kobe Bryant.
Nash was a great passer and used his quickness to run the offense, but he doesn't have the offensive talent to score or run the offense the way he did back then if he played today.
While it's a little unfair to point to Nash's struggles in the latter stages of his career, it may have been a telltale sign that he played in the perfect era for a player of his skillset.
10 Succeed: Oscar Robertson
Oscar Robertson was the first player to average a triple double, and nobody thought it would be done again until Russell Westbrook remarkably did it last season. Robertson is one of the greatest all-around players of all-time, and while the talent he faced back in the day wasn't anywhere close to what it is today, he still would succeed in the league, just not at the same incredible rate he used to.
Robertson would be a solid player in the game and maybe even a MVP candidate due to his ability to do it all. It would also depend on the teammates he'd have today.
9 Struggle: Jerry West
The logo himself would struggle immensely if he played in the NBA today. While he was easily one of the most dominant scorers to ever step on the hardwood, he doesn't have the athletic or defensive abilities to make a name for himself if he played in our current era. He would still find a nice role on a team as a shooter, but he would not be used as the logo if he played today rather than half a century ago. West would find himself coming off the bench, perhaps for a championship caliber team, but he wouldn't ever be confused for a star.
8 Succeed: Hakeem Olajuwan
You can't teach what Olajuwon had. Hakeem "The Dream" Olajuwan was easily one of the best big men to ever play the game of basketball.
His game has been compared to many of the best centers in the game today, such as guys like Joel Embiid.
Hakeem had incredible touch and footwork around the rim, and even with the athletic centers in the game today, Olajuwan would be a force to be reckoned with, as he would put up great numbers in the game today. He's the center that all young centers are compared to, and he'd still be able to dominate today.
7 Struggle: Moses Malone
Moses Malone is a Philadelphia legend, and he was a top forward in the league back in his prime. While he wasn't the most athletic player, he used his big body to grab rebounds and score inside. Malone however, would struggle in the fast paced, three-point shooting era of today, as he was much more suited for a slow grind it out kind of game, as that fit his play style much more. He would still be viable for rebounding and defense, but his stats wouldn't look the same if he played in the current NBA. He'd be more of a role player than a focal point of a franchise.
6 Succeed: Reggie Miller
Not only would Reggie Miller succeed in the NBA today, but his stats maybe would even be better than they were in the 90s, as Miller played the kind of game we see many more guys utilizing today; three-point shooting at a high velocity.
Miller's few weaknesses would be trivialized in the way the game is played now.
Miller would have no problem letting it fly against the talent of today, and he would be a hard cover for sure, as he is one of the leagues greatest scorers of all-time. New York fans might detest him even more, as Miller's skillset was tailor made to dominate the game today.
5 Struggle: Isiah Thomas
Isiah Thomas had a game made for the brutal 80s, as he was a very small, but physical guard that really had a positive impact for the Detroit Pistons every game. The NBA is a lot different now, as players rely on talent and athleticism much more than toughness.
Thomas would struggle as his aggressiveness would get him fouled out of the NBA today quickly, as refs are much quicker to blow their whistle than they were 30 years ago. That kind of goes for the Bad Boy Pistons in general, as they truly were the perfect team for their era, but not one other teams would try to replicate.
4 Succeed: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is arguably the greatest scorer of all-time, and that isn't just because he played decades ago; he really had serious talent.
While the game has changed a lot since his time in the league, centers of today would have no idea how to stop his iconic skyhook shot.
Jabbar really could put up some serious numbers if he was dropped in the current league. A legend back then, Kareem would be a legend if his career started in the present era. When you think of the kind of playmakers he could have as teammates today, his stats may even be more gaudy than they were back then.
3 Struggle: George Gervin
George "The Iceman" Gervin was one of the league's most exciting players back in his playing days, as he was able to glide through the air like no one has ever seen before. Fans of the NBA today however would not find his talents to be anything special however, as the athleticism we get to watch on a daily basis in the NBA is like never before. Gervin would be a solid role player, but he would struggle considering the athletic prowess he once had would be just a bit above average in the league today.
2 Succeed: David Robinson
One of the truly overlooked stars of the 90s, David Robinson would be a breath of fresh air if he was placed in the current NBA.
He would bring a touch attitude at the power forward position we haven't seen since the likes of Kevin Garnett.
Robinson would be a force in the league today, as he has the tools needed to be successful in the current era; athleticism and strength. Robinson would get to work against all the new stretch fours in the league today. More players should be trying to tailor their game after Robinson as he truly played his position the way it was meant to be played.
1 Struggle: Magic Johnson
Magic Johnson. Yes, the great Magic Johnson would find the league is much more adapt at defending all around players such as him. He'd have a lot of guys capable of shutting him down, such as Russell Westbrook, Ben Simmons, LeBron James, and many more.
Not many players back in the 80s knew how to guard a guy who could do it all like Magic, but even though he would still be a solid player in the league today, he wouldn't quite be the superstar he was back in his glory days. At least he can still be a superstar in the front office.