Jay C. Brandriet
I was having a discussion with a buddy the other day. This guy is a massive Larry Bird fan. He said, “I don’t think Bird would hold up in today’s game.”
I did not agree, and was stunned he said this.
Part of his rational was Bird couldn’t run fast or jump high.
I don’t think he was intending to insult Larry. I think he was trying to give credit to the 2021 athlete.
Of course things have evolved over the years.
There was one point I did agree with him on. “Neither of us can prove our point. We don’t have a time machine, and we will never know for sure.”
It’s also fair to say some guys would fit better and worse at different times in history.
Here are some things I do know.
Bird couldn’t run fast or jump high THEN. The court is still 94 feet in length.
This is the same Boston Celtic legend, who used to tell opponents where and when he would hit the last second shot in their faces.
The same guy who once told the media he would play left handed the next night in Portland, and followed up on it. He wanted to “save his right hand for the Lakers.”
Same dude who said he was “offended when teams tried to guard him with white players.”
He had the audacity to attempt head games on a young Dominique Wilkins and Clyde Drexler.
We know he is battle tested in a more physical decade.
“Larry Legend” banged with the Bucks, the Rockets (Moses and Hakeem), and “The Bad Boys” just to name a few.
He ran with the all time high scoring Nuggets, and Magic’s “Showtime” Lakers.
His squad was 6-0 vs Michael Jordan in the playoffs.
Bird was an All-Defensive player three times checking cats like Dr. J, Bernard King and “Iceman.”
Shaq, Mourning, and Larry Johnson were joining the league at the end of Larry’s career.
He isn’t from the ice age.
So how is today’s NBA so different?
The player’s aren’t tougher. Maybe they are a little better athletically.
The biggest change is the skill and the amount of shooters are higher in quality and number per roster.
Larry oozed SKILL!
The sport today prefers you shoot threes, and get to the rim. This is the “freedom of movement era.”
Bird took just 1.9 three point attempts per game in his day.
To contrast and compare? Role player Kentavious Caldwell-Pope takes 4.6 a night.
Larry would slaughter this league with three point makes.
Guess what translates as well?
His clutch mastery. brilliant vision and passing, back breaking hustle, and humiliating ball fakes.
His brains, leadership, height, nose for the boards, and disgusting swag are coming along as well.
How would Larry Bird do in today’s game?
He would more than survive. He would thrive.
If we pulled the 1986 version of Bird directly into today’s NBA? Honestly?
I think he would be five percent better.
Jay C. Brandriet