It always amuses one to see people look back at earlier players and wonder if they could play today.
We don’t know what you call it - recency bias? - but you can see it with a lot of the greats. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had an unstoppable hook shot. Could he thrive in the positionless era? Well, who could stop him? People always look at Larry Bird and think he’s too slow. Well, he was too slow in the 1980’s too. No one could stop him.
Even Michael Jordan gets it to an extent with people saying that LeBron James is the GOAT but people who watched Jordan understand that his nearly psychotic competitive drive would have pushed him past James.
Julius Erving gets it a bit too. Partly it’s because, like everyone, he looks a bit funny on old video and his ball handling maybe isn’t up to current standards.
But you see things that make it clear that he’s an all-time talent. There’s the famous behind-the-backboard scoop shot and the cradle dunk.
And he had amazing hands. It’s hard to see on YouTube but his fingers curved out at the second joint. Why?
Because he did finger tip pushups for years.
It’s obvious on that behind-the-backboard layup and it’s obvious on the first dunk of these two over Kareem: he never has to slow down to gather himself like normal people, never has to pick the ball up with both hands. He just takes it in his right like a softball and takes off. Like Jordan, his enormous hands allowed him to do things that others simply couldn’t.