Friday, May 26, 2017

The NBA 55 years ago -- and now

While researching something else, yours truly came across what I think was an interesting bit of nostalgia. Consider what the NBA looked like way back in 1961.

In those days there were only nine teams, instead of the thirty we know today. This was during the hey-day of the Red Auerbach coached, Bill Russell led Boston Celtics dominance.

The teams in existence were as follows:

The West --

Los Angeles Lakers
Cincinnati Royals
Detroit Pistons
St. Louis Hawks
Chicago Packers

Note that Cincinnati doesn't even have an NBA team in modern times, nor does St. Louis. The Packers, usually associated with an NFL team in Green Bay, would morph into the Bulls eventually.

The East ---

Boston Celtics
Philadelphia Warriors
Syracuse Nationals
NY Knickerbockers

Also note that Syracuse dropped off the NBA radar, and the Philly Warriors would eventually become the 76ers.

Keep in mind how long ago this was. A guy name John F. Kennedy was President. If still alive, he would be 100 years old this year. A while back indeed.

Yet it's relevant in another way.

Many often wish to compare different generations of sports as to who was better.

Surely, there's no doubt the NBA players of modern times are much more highly skilled than their predecessors of old -- right?

Maybe. Believe it or not, they could shoot, ball handle, rebound, play defense, and run just as fast back in the old days. But they weren't so much into the chest-thumping, look-at-me, slam dunking, obscene salary, sneaker endorsing mode as they are today. Nor did the 3 point shot exist. Or mega-buck TV deals and every game for every team being on the air somewhere. Back then, America had four television channels. 2, 4, 7, and Canada's 9. CBS, NBC, ABC, and CBC. Period. This was before UHF, and decades before cable, let alone the digital streaming blitz that is now available.

But a much more important point looms.

At only nine teams, the league had less than a third of the players it has today.

In that regard, it could be argued that the talent level in the NBA has become watered down with all the "expansion" that has taken place over the years, giving rise to so many more teams.

Consider ----

How good would the players on any team be these days if there were only nine teams instead of thirty?

In other words, the bottom two-thirds of any roster wouldn't be there.

Given the roster sizes would be limited to the same dozen or so players, it would mean only the best 3 or 4 from every team would even be in the league. The other 8 or 9 would have to get a real job doing something else. Not good enough. And further given the salary cap, draft, and free agent movement -- see parity -- EVERY team would be really, REALLY good.

The cream of the crop indeed.

Regrettably, it hasn't turned out that way. In 2017 fans have become subjected to more talking heads, pundits, and other "experts" that never played the game -- merely talking about it on the bazillion channels now available on TV. There's way more of them than there are top-flight basketball players.

Sure, every player in the NBA is better than anybody on your block. Competition remains ferocious to even get there.

But just imagine how good the teams would be if only 9 or 10 of them existed instead of thirty.

Ah yes,. The heady days of Leave it to Beaver, the Flintstones, and the town drunk Otis locking himself up in Andy and Barney's Mayberry jail. Captain Kirk was just enrolling in the Starfleet academy. The Addams Family, Munsters, Green Acres, and my favorite of all time Beverly Hillbillies hadn't even been thought of yet.

Quality was on the way -- at least in TV land.

Maybe not so much in the NBA.......

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