Anyone who has watched basketball over the last 30 – 40 years knows Larry Bird, whether you were a fan of the Boston Celtics or a fan of Bird there was no denying he was one of the greats. The question often comes up every generation is if the players of yesteryear could have played in the current generation of game.
So that’s what we’re going to examine.
Could Larry have played in this generation with as much success as he did in the 80s. Larry’s accolades are vast including 3x MVP, 10x All-Pro & 3x champion, as just some.
Firstly we’ll take a look at the differences of the generations of hoops. In the 80s the game was based on inside / outside play – meaning play is typically generated looking to get easy buckets and high percentage scores by getting the ball down low. The game today is played much more differently – as an outside / inside game where teams are looking to put up 30+ three point shots instead of easy 2 point buckets down low.
But what made Larry very unique and much more dangerous was his lethal sharpshooting ability at his size. Larry was 6-9 and able to knock down the deep ball at a 38% rate that was extremely uncommon at the time. And when he was putting up 2+ /game his shooting pct jumped to 40%+ in 4 of 6 seasons. Larry was known as one of the best shooters in the NBA and playing in this day – he’d still be able to shoot, granted, he only shot around 2 threes a game, hitting them at a good rate but we can easily speculate that he would likely be putting up 8-9 from behind the arc now. And if we simply extrapolate his percentage of hitting – he would probably be dropping 3-4 three’s a game which would add +3-6 points to his game, his offensive game would be in the realm of Steph Curry. But Larry was bigger and stronger and would also be able to get tough buckets in the paint.
Another thing about the game that’s very different is the mentality, and this part is extremely important. Larry was tough, calculating, and ran his mouth, he was an emotional assassin. It’s no secret that this generation of ballplayers tend to stomp and complain.
Nobody would question that the game from years ago was much tougher and much more physical.
So if you take a player who was cut from a different cloth, one who can shoot the lights out and also get in your head – he would be a very difficult player to stop, especially in this generation. As someone who was able to stick it from 25 back then – he would still be able to stick it, and this time, you would also not have to worry about as much physicality.
The game is more wide open today.
His game wood transfer into today’s game flawlessly, I could easily make the argument that he would be absolutely dominant. It wouldn’t surprise me if he was scoring 30+ a game easily grabbing his typical 10 boards a game and still dishing his 6-7 assists per game, a Jokic style – but a better shooter.
On top of that – with his trash talking it makes me wonder how players like Durant and LeBron – who are notoriously known to do their share of complaining and whining – handle the mental game? Can you imagine him giving PTSD to players when he tells them but he’s going to stick a 15-foot jumper in their face, and then does it and smirks.
I don’t know if they could handle that.
There’s absolutely no question in my mind that Larry could play in this generation. Yes, the players from today are bigger, faster, and stronger. They’re more athletic without doubt, and truly probably, better shooters. But the game today seems to lack a lot of fundamentals and toughness. Mopping up the floor, diving for balls, making his team better, sticking shots, running his mouth, getting in players heads – and those are things that Larry excelled in as he one one of the best players ever to play basketball.