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YouTube Gold: Hard Fouls Of The ‘80’s And ‘90’s

The NBA is a very different league now from what it used to be.

Oakley battles for control
 WASHINGTON - JANUARY 14: Charles Oakley #34 of the Washington Wizards battles with Rafer Alston #12 of the Toronto Raptors for control of the ball during the game at MCI Center on January 14, 2003 in Washington, DC. The Raptors won 84-75. 
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The NBA has an interesting history when it comes to physical play. In the 1960’s, big men really ruled the roost. Guys like Wilt Chamberlain, Willis Reed, Wesley Unseld and other centers controlled the paint in a way that no one could today.

In the 1970’s and ‘80s, the concept of enforcers evolved. Guys like Maurice Lucas laid down the law. He was much smaller than the guy listed above, but if you went after Bill Walton during his Portland years, you had to go through Lucas to do it. Walton respected him so much that he named his son Luke after his former protector. And then there’s Kermit Washington, who ultimately forced the NBA to crack down on extreme violence.

In the 1980’s and ‘90’s, as the game evolved and the talent deepened, not to mention a revolution in strength training, defenses became much more physical and not just the big guys.

You saw really powerful guys like Karl Malone and Charles Barkley who could take anyone down. You saw Dennis Rodman going after players who were nearly a foot taller. Kevin McHale famously tackled Kurt Rambis on a fast break (later he said the only thing he regretted was that it wasn’t Magic Johnson or James Worthy) and the whole Detroit team invoked the Jordan Rules to intimidate Michael Jordan.

Those guys like to mock today’s NBA for its lack of physicality. And while they have a point, so does the league: watching Charles Oakley and Bill Laimbeer mug opponents doesn't exactly put people in the stands.

Scoring does though and the current emphasis on offense is more likely to draw fans in.

But there was a certain level of toughness in the older school NBA that’s not really around today and you can sort of understand the older players who mock today’s game because of that. They lived it and thrived in it.