Is there any reason to think NBA superstars of generations past could compete in today's NBA? Is it even fair to compare players of different generations?
Is it fair to compare players from different generations? I have an argument that there are reliable ways to compare players across generations - and that the older stars would still be stars in today's game. My buddy thinks there's no way players like West, Robertson, or Chamberlain could be any better than average today. Who's right (or at least more right)?
It all started with this fascinating article
The author uses a stat called a WP48 (Wins Produced per 48 minutes) to compare the careers of a few NBA players. One casual conclusion he comes to in the article is that Clyde Drexler was a better player than Kobe Bryant is. While I absolutely agree with this claim, many took umbrage with it. So the author posted a follow up to the argument
, directly comparing - statistically - the careers of Drexler and Kobe, and still coming to the definitive conclusion that Drexler is better.
Well, I brought this up with a bud of mine and he went off! "Not only is there is no way to compare players of different generations, but there is no way the superstars of older generations would be anything more than mediocre role players in today's league!
He argues that the larger pool of talent and competition is the reason why they couldn’t compete. I argue that if you took Oscar Robertson and raised him in today’s game (from youth rec leagues to the NBA) that his game would be as elevated as it was in his era and that he’d still be a superstar.
But the crux of his argument is this notion that because the talent pool is global and much more pervasive, that it is universally raising the level of talent in ways that a smaller pool of players a few decades ago couldn't have.
I call BS on that argument, but as a CPA and business owner he is not backing down.
I think there is a statistically viable and analysis-based way to take a player from an older generation of the game and compare him to a player in today’s game. Am I wrong here? Is it irrational to think that older NBA stars – if given the chance to train and compete in today’s basketball climate – would be just as dominate?