This article about Michael Jordan and the Last Dance argues that Jordan wouldn’t dominate the game today.
It has the same flaws as a lot of articles looking back: it badly underestimates Jordan’s ferocity and determination to win at everything. This is a guy the Chicago Bulls would not allow to lift weights with Horace Grant because they were concerned he would hurt himself trying to outlift the much more powerful Grant.
So the game is more about three point shooting now? Fine. Jordan would have killed himself to outdo Stephen Curry. And if he couldn’t, he’d just shut Curry down.
The writer also argues that Jordan would be forced to give the ball up more - but he already did that. Put a couple of sharpshooters on his team and the three point argument reverses. It would just open up lanes for Jordan.
The main thing about Jordan, aside from his immense talent, is that he had everyone in the NBA in a mental head lock. George Karl was so freaked he couldn't figure out if it was better or worse just to say hello. Which would Jordan punish him more for? Can you imagine that - at dinner?
One last thing: it’s correct here to wonder how Bill Russell would translate to today’s game although that underestimates a few things: first, his intelligence, and second his physical gifts. He was a superb athlete. As we’ve said before, take players from yesteryear and give them today’s advantages, from vastly improved shoes to training to various uses of technology and vastly superior diets and that body is easily an NBA body. Skills are a different issue but Russell was immensely talented.
Wilt Chamberlain was another story. The guy was 7-1+, weighed about 275 and had roughly a 50” vertical. He had sprinter speed. Put him into the modern game with its advantages and he would be unstoppable. Can you imagine that guy working with a committed trainer? He’d be completely unstoppable and would redefine the game back to inside power.
All of these guys bent the game to their will. Jordan would do that today as much as he did in the ‘90s.
There are two guys we’d love to ask about this: first would be Phil Jackson, who played against Russell and Chamberlain and coached Jordan, and the second would be Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who watched and studied Russell and competed against Chamberlain and Jordan.
And by the way, we should all thank The Last Dance for giving us so much to talk about in this time of No Sports.