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Saturday, November 27, 2021

The NBA 75: The Bias Between Current Players and Generational Talents

A HEADLINE Sports Essay by Connor Laird. (sports opinion)

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The NBA just reached its 75th year, and in celebration, the league brought together an anniversary team of 76 players who were voted by current and former WNBA and NBA players, coaches, GMs, team and league executives, and NBA media legends. The list is formatted similarly to the 50th-anniversary team, including all 50 members of the previous list with 26 new additions.

The list comes with obvious controversy. Hundreds of players deserve to be on this list, and breaking down each snub would be impractical. Team execs and players themselves have already come forward regarding their thoughts on the list. 

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Klay Thompson, on Instagram, responding to NBA 75 controversy.

The debate between NBA generational players and their respective talent has always been a contentious issue. How does one differentiate the generational talents, Klay Thompson and Dennis Rodman? Both were integral parts of some of the best teams in NBA history, each winning multiple championships. Klay has more all-star appearances, but Rodman has more All-Defensive NBA grabs. Klay is known as a top-5 shooter all-time, and Rodman is without question a top-5 defender. Justifying an argument for one to be on the list while the other isn’t is impossible. 

This goes without question, but there is an undeniable bias in favor of older NBA generations. It’s a notable item, that all 50 players from the NBA 50 team held their spot. In a league that has historically been dominated by big men, what else but generational bias could keep Nate Thurmond on this list and leave off Dwight Howard? Dwight Howard was a member of the 2010’s All-Decade team alongside an honorable mention for the 2000’s All-Decade Team, an 8x All-Star, and 8x All-NBA, a 3x DPOY, and was without question the best center in the NBA for years, what more of a robust resume is needed to crack the list?

Storylines and historical legends also came to play. The case study between Pistol Pete and Tracy Mcgrady is a perfect depiction of this. Both players were known as generational scorers, had short-lived peaks due to injury, and neither sniffed an NBA Championship appearance. Two players with similar career paths, statistics in their primes, and early retirements, what places Pistol on the list over T-Mac? The legacy of his play and the folktale-like remembrance of Pete is ultimately what boosts him on the list ahead of T-Mac. 

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Maravich (with the ball) driving past Tom Van Arsdale in 1974

All and all, there is a legitimate argument for members like Dolph Schayes to retain their place on the list, but too many talented players were left off. Today’s NBA has the highest level of talent we’ve ever seen, between freak of nature physicals, next-level training, and the game becoming globalized. 25 years down the road, columnists will bring up the same arguments, questioning Kyrie’s legacy versus the next shooting guard in 2035. There may never be a correct answer when asking these questions, but every NBA anniversary rehash brings with it a better conversation for fans of every generation.

Avatar of Connor Laird
Connor Laird
Hoodie enthusiast, washed-up athlete, and polo collector. Fan of the process.
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