If you’re on NBA Twitter or pay attention to sports in general, you often hear the previous generation of athletes talking about the current athlete saying, “They’re too soft” or “They don’t work hard enough” or “They don’t care enough.”
Nothing out of the ordinary.
Well, James Worthy, NBA Hall of Famer and Los Angeles Lakers legend decided to give his two cents on the current state of the NBA.
If you’ve been paying any attention to the NBA playoffs the last couple of weeks, there haven’t been many close or competitive games. It’s been almost two weeks since a game was decided by five points or fewer. The margins of victory during the conference finals games have been 11, 25, 25, 9, 6, 9, 20, 10 and 13. In the game that was decided by 6 points, the winning team was up by as much as 27.
So the games have not been entertaining to watch.
During an interview on the Stoney & Jansen Show, Worthy, a three-time NBA Champion with the Lakers, was asked how he feels about how the game is played today and the heavy reliance on three-pointers.
He spoke on how the game has been diminished since players are either not going to college at all or only playing one year. He said, “I mean, Kareem had four years with John Wooden, Michael Jordan and I had three years with Dean Smith, Isiah (Thomas) had some years with Bobby Knight. So you learned the fundamentals.”
But it didn’t end there, he continued, “Not only that, you learned how to live. You learned how to balance your freaking checkbook in college, there’s a lot of things. When you don’t get that, guys are coming to the NBA who are not fundamentally sound. All they do is practice threes, lift weights, get tattoos, tweet and go on social media. That’s it.”
Oof, tough words from the NBA legend. But I also think it’s a little unfair.
Players are being told by their coaches and analytics department to take more threes. What analytics have taught us is that threes, layups and free throws are the most efficient shots you can take. While that can lead to some game-to-game variance it’s something that has also led these teams to make it to the Western Conference Finals.
But, to say that all they do is “practice three-pointers, lift weights, get tattoos and go on social media” I think is harsh. Today’s athletes are more active and aware about the world around them than ever before. Many of them have their own business, clothing lines, schools, and nonprofit organizations.
During the 1970s, when the NBA had a serious drug problem, would it have been fair for Bill Russell to say that “all NBA players do today is dunk, fight and get high.”? No.
So while many of today’s NBA players do have tattoos and they shoot a lot of threes, it’s never fair to pigeonhole them.