A common practice of many sports fans of whatever sport is to draw up all-star team from the past and conjecture how they'd do against modern players. After reading comments by many fans, young and old, in a number of basketball forums, I've discerned that many younger fans, through a combination of ignorance or modernist chauvinism, do not believe yesterday's players would have a chance against today's players. For instance, I've read comments by a number of forum posters who think Wilt Chamberlain couldn't play today.
But I've also read comments and talked to people who think Larry Bird couldn't play today either. These people think that since because today's players are on average superior to athletes from twenty years ago and more, the players from the older eras couldn't compete. This despite the fact that average or subaverage athletes of today like Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, and Kevin Love are headed to the hall-of-fame. A sixties team with a starting five of Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, and Elgin Baylor complemented by John Havlicek, Sam Jones, Willis Reed, Nate Thurmond, Rick Barry, Billy Cunningham, and Hal Greer would stomp every modern NBA team.
No player today is going to stop those players individually much less as a collective team. What current NBA center would be able to handle the 1962 Wilt one on one? Or Robertson and the rest? Wilt remains the greatest center ever. Only O'Neal rivals him. Oscar Robertson is still probably the best point guard ever with a slight edge over Magic Johnson. Baylor would be an undersized small forward, but no modern player would stop him. And though on defense he'd be length challenged, he'd have Chamberlain and Russell, two of the greatest shot-blockers in history, backing him up. The guys coming off the bench would destroy any modern team as well.
Imagine some modern team facing the starting five. No player today is going to stop Robertson from going where he wants to go. When Oscar would get the ball, the first thing he'd do is try to get inside the foul line. If he's double-teamed, he can either throw the ball to West or Baylor. If chooses to use a pick-and-roll with Wilt, who's going to stop Wilt going to the basket? If they throw the ball to Baylor, Elgin would certainly try to penetrate. Again, no player today is going to stop him. If he's double-teamed, the defense has the same problem of what to do with wide-open West and Robertson.
In the sixties star's offense, West would probably work off the ball. And to boot, many of the sixties players, including Wilt, were excellent passers with Robertson maybe the greatest passer of all time. Of course this team would fast break all the time. When the starting five takes a break, you've got players like Barry, Jones, and Reed who can score, and Thurmond to do the dirty work of blocking shots and rebounding along with Reed. Havlicek was an excellent all-around player and Cunningham played like a Baylor clone with his attacks on the basket. If they need more speed, they can bring in Hal Greer who was one of the best outside shooters and maybe the fastest player from the sixties.
I would imagine if the sixties all-stars played a series of exhibition games against all the current NBA teams, they'd probably average 130-140 pts a game while giving up 100. The best teams in the league, like the Heat, OKC, and the L.A. Lakers could get their points, but they'd have a tough time inside with shot-blockers like Chamberlain, Russell, and Thurmond. And there's no way they could stop the sixties all-stars from getting excellent shots. Imagine the sixties stars playing some of the lesser teams like the Bobcats. Oh, the carnage. Of course, one difference between today's game and yesterday's is the 3-point line which didn't exist in the sixties. I'd allow the 3-point shot giving today's teams that advantage. I doubt the sixties team would take more than a few of them per game with West, Greer, and Barry being the likely shooters. But they'd the great bulk of their points closer to the basket and at the foul line. The sixties players had the skills, intelligence, desire, and athletic ability to murder today's teams.
And to get my final twelve players, I had to do some tough decisions because I'm leaving players like Jerry Lucas, Luke Jackson, Connie Hawkins, and ball-handling whiz Guy Rodgers off the team.
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