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Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain exemplified how to play the game without Showtime hot-dogging. The two battled for over a decade during the 60's. Since that time no NBA center could compare to their brute talent - (Library of Congress photo)


The competition between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson helped save the NBA from a lackluster period during the 70's - Steve Lipofsky www.Basketballphoto.com



Without question Michael Jordan could excel in any era. Jordan did it all at both ends of the floor and he did it with dignity and class - (Steve Lipofsky photo)


For those in the know the former LA/Minneapolis Lakers great Elgin Baylor is the best pound for pound NBA player ever.




James Loving/National Radio Text Service



Many sports journalists prefer not to compare players from different NBA eras which raise the question WHY NOT? The evaluation is quite simple really as it all boils down to not if old schools players could play in today's NBA but what current players could compete with the OLD SCHOOL class of the 60's from way back in the day


Friday, April 28, 2017


Many sports journalists prefer not to compare players from different NBA eras which raise the question WHY NOT? The evaluation is quite simple really as it all boils down to not if old schools players could play in today's NBA but what current players could compete with the OLD SCHOOL class of the 60's from way back in the day.

There is no doubt that today's NBA players are more athletic and better shooters. Much of it stems from diligent practice, superior training equipment and having video available from which to learn.

The NBA started in 1947 and it was a rough life. During the off season some players had to have a second job in order to make ends meet. George Dempsey of the then Philadelphia Warriors (now Golden State) was a milk man. The Warriors won the NBA title in 1956 with Dempsey being a role player.

Also during the 50's Gene Conley was fortunate enough to play at the top level in two professional sports. Conley played in the NBA and also was a Major League Baseball player as a pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Conley did well in both sports. He played for the Boston Celtics as a member of their 1959-60 & 61 NBA title winning teams. Conley was a role player with the Celtics but achieved his greatest professional athletic success in Major League baseball.

The NBA matured during the 60's and that is where many seasoned scribes feel that is when best NBA players of all time played the game. That was most evident when this season Russell Westbrook broke Oscar Robertson's 55 year old record for triple doubles.

Robertson interviewed Westbrook on the NBA's TV magazine show NBA ACTION. Robertson broke the record when he was a member of the Cincinnati Royals now Sacramento Kings. He was complimentary and not jealous of the Oklahoma City Thunder player's accomplishment. The interview became interesting when Westbrook admitted that he never saw Robertson play but knows of his history.

The 6'5"Robertson pointed out that he wasn't aware of what he was doing but simply was doing the best he could do to win games for his team. He noted that REBOUNDS was the most important aspect of his game.

Robertson played in an era when the NBA was dominantly white. Black players during that time were exposed to racist treatment. Robertson and the Celtics Bill Russell had to deal with it but were tough enough to excel and be two of the best during that era. Russell's home town Boston Celtic fans broke into his home and defecated in his bed.

The twist to that is today the NBA is 75% black. Back in the 50 it was rare to see a black player on any team. Robertson then referred to who he considers one of the greatest players that ever played the game but never received the recognition that he deserves… Elgin Baylor a lifer Laker during his 14 year NBA career.

Baylor is on our All-time NBA 1st team. I've seen him play during his rookie year and ever since that time have never seen anyone like him. Baylor could do it all, drive, shoot from the top or his favorite spot the corner. Baylor set then NBA records which have since been broken.

What makes Robertson's opinion interesting is he played at the same time throughout Baylor's career during the prime of their careers. Baylor's rookie season was 1958-59. Robertson's 14 year career began in the 1960-61 season.

Baylor retired early due to a knee injury that was caused five years into his career. He continued to play but his numbers fell. The 6'5"forward toughed it out until he retired nine games into the Lakers 1972 title winning and then record breaking 69 win season. Baylor wasn't active thus it makes him one of the greatest players who never was on a title a title winning team during their career.

That is a major point in comparing eras, the bottom line is today's game is designed to protect the players thus creating more scoring opportunities. Today's players are walking with the ball, as the Boston Celtics Isaiah Thomas was accused of during their 1st round playoff series this month against the Chicago Bulls.

Hand check rules were changed making it easier for players to drive down a lane that a Mack truck could drive through while in the process taking two steps in many cases.

The players that excel in the game today such a Westbrook, Harden and Curry would have their heads handed to them if they tried to drive down the lane with against the 60's players during their prime time.

The game is now primarily a perimeter game. The banging that existed then has tamed down considerably given the rule changes. There is now way that any of the players today could drive down the lane on Bill Russell or Wilt Chamberlain.

Compare eras…why not? Unquestionably the 90's produced several players that could roll with the old-timers, namely Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Dennis Rodman and Hakeem Olajuwon. All of these players could bang and be physical.

The game changed when it became the Showtime era made popular by Magic Johnson. When players started to dribble between their legs at the turn of the century, for no reason but to show off such as the great Alan Iverson, the NBA lost the plot.

It is what it is. Iverson is great but the rules were bent and ignored to sell the game. Today's game is designed more for entertainment. Today players go flying through the air without reprisal. The old-timers would have clipped their wings so they could never fly again which is what we feel happened to Elgin Baylor's knees.

It's all good BUT the reality is a game pitting today's players would be more like men verses boys and the 60 players were THE MEN.


1st Team
2nd Team
Larry Bird
Elgin Baylor
Julius Erving
Bill Russell
Wilt Chamberlain
Michael Jordan
LeBron James
Magic Johnson
Oscar Robertson
11th & 12th MAN SUBSTITUTES & Coach



On October 29, 1996 In conjunction with the NBA’s 50th anniversary celebration, the list of The 50 Greatest Players in NBA History was announced. It included: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Nate Archibald, Paul Arizin, Charles Barkley, Rick Barry, Elgin Baylor, Dave Bing, Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain, Bob Cousy, Dave Cowens, Billy Cunningham, Dave DeBusschere, Clyde Drexler, Julius Erving, Patrick Ewing, Walt Frazier, George Gervin, Hal Greer, John Havlicek, Elvin Hayes, Earvin Johnson, Sam Jones, Michael Jordan, Jerry Lucas, Karl Malone, Moses Malone, Pete Maravich, Kevin McHale, George Mikan, Earl Monroe, Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, Robert Parish, Bob Pettit, Scottie Pippen, Willis Reed, Oscar Robertson, David Robinson, Bill Russell, Dolph Schayes, Bill Sharman, John Stockton, Isiah Thomas, Nate Thurmond, Wes Unseld, Bill Walton, Jerry West, Lenny Wilkens, and James Worthy


To be continued…


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