The Myth Of the Physical 80's

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Props Slaps
 5 years ago '11        #1
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X_WunderKind_X 909 heat pts909
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The Myth Of the Physical 80's
 

 
“Playoff basketball” is often a euphemism for borderline dirty play — for cheap shots, for flagrant fouls that aren’t called as such, for any sort of post-whistle altercations and theatrics. “Hard” fouls elicit Marv Albert’s almost synchronistic bellows of “THAT’S PLAYOFF BASKETBALL!” It’s an image that’s hard to reconcile with the standard line that the modern NBA isn’t nearly as physical as it once was. If your only acquaintance to 80s and 90s basketball consists in Magic Johnson and Charles Barkley anecdotes, then you’d likely be led to believe that the NBA of yesteryear was more like a case study on “man’s returning to a state of nature” than a game of grace, athleticism and strategy. These anecdotes range from whimsical, almost caricatured tales that begin with “well, back in my day…,” to old timers’ grasping for straws by deriding the modern NBA player as “soft” and “unable to play in the good ol’ days.” The myth of the physical 80s is really one of the more amusing tropes I can think of — simply because of how distorted from reality it is.

The physical team par excellence of the 80s was Chuck Daly’s Detroit Pistons. They implemented a defensive strategy known as the “Jordan Rules” in an effort to stymie Michael Jordan’s mid-air acrobatics; it was (purportedly) one part X’s and O’s strategy (force him left, keep him from driving baseline, collapse the paint, etc.), one part “beat Jordan up so he thinks twice about driving to the hoop.” But as you’ll see in this video, nothing in it would be considered out of the ordinary in 2013:


Keep in mind that this video was made to illustrate just how physical the Pistons were, yet on more than half the plays Jordan is unscathed. Bill Lambeer and Dennis Rodman get some good shots in, but modern players wouldn’t cower in Laimbeer’s wake — they’d probably just dunk on him. [NOTE: imagine what would happen if a team were to play that defense against LeBron. He'd literally get 20+ a.ssists every time.]

I’d argue that, if anything, defense is more physical now than it has ever been. This makes itself most (but not exclusively) apparent in off ball defense, both on the perimeter and on the block. Gone are the days where a player could expect to receive the ball in the post prior to taking considerable amounts of contact:


(Go to :28)



By comparison, look at this video of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, scoring 40 points against Philadelphia in Game 5 of the 1980 NBA Finals:


It was a finesse game back then!!! But the direction I’m heading with this argument sort of obfuscates the thesis of the myth — I don’t want to do that. Players now get labeled as “soft” primarily due to misunderstandings of how rule changes — along with changes in rule enforcement — have affected the way basketball is played. If you watch ESPN telecasts of NBA games, you’ve probably heard analyst Jeff Van Gundy bemoan a flagrant foul call or two or three thousand. “Charles Oakley used to do that all the time! That’s not a flagrant; it’s just a clean, hard foul.” But hidden beneath nostalgic allusions to the basketball barbarism of the past is the very obvious fact that the ruling on a play doesn’t inform what transpired on the play itself. It’s undeniable that there are more “forceful collisions” in basketball now than 30 years ago, but old players and coaches call this era “soft” because a higher percentage of those forceful collisions are being called flagrants. People like Van Gundy then suggest that many current players couldn’t play in the 80s because of the era’s physical nature! Bogus.

Here’s a compilation of hard fouls in the NBA. Most are from the last five years, but there are some from the 80s and 90s, as well:



Let’s make one thing clear: we shouldn’t celebrate these plays. There’s no pride to be taken in trying to break somebody’s leg unless you get paid to f!ght in an octagon. Pointing out the existence of dirty, non-basketball plays in today’s game isn’t even the manner in which I argue that it’s more physical; I simply intended on refuting the main point of the myth, which is that aggressive plays at the rim were far more abundant and violent in the 80s.

Shifting the discussion away from dirty plays at the rim, another rule change that has altered our perception of the physicality of the sport is the barring of hand checking. For those unfamiliar, hand checking refers specifically to plays where a defender places his hand(s) on the ball handler. Elite perimeter defenders like Scottie Pippen would place one hand on a ball handler’s upper arm and force him a certain direction. This was permitted until the 2004-05 season, but even now, smart defenders get away with occasional hand checks. Moreover (and I alluded to this earlier), hand checking and grabbing are far more prevalent off the ball now. It makes sense that that’s the case; offensive sets have become increasingly complex, there’s more off the ball movement, and going around (rather than f!ghting through) screen after screen isn’t an ideal strategic position to be in. In the 80s, isolation basketball dominated offensive strategy (it was literally isolation, cuts off back screens, and mid range spot ups off of down screens. THAT WAS IT.), which left eight of the 10 guys on the court physically disengaged from their opponent for extended periods. Offenses now are in constant motion, which has necessitated additional contact by defenders in order to keep up.

It just strikes me as strange that the 80s NBA has been so freely accepted as a virulent war zone filled with bloodthirsty savages, while we’re stuck watching a league of pansies. Many people actually hold the opinion that the 80s would’ve been too physical for LeBron – especially in light of the Heat’s loss to the Bulls in late March, after which LeBron publicly complained about how the Bulls were defending him. Well, long live the myth of the physical 80s! Thanks, Bill Simmons Olivia Newton-John. It’s all your fault.


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81 comments for "The Myth Of the Physical 80's"

 5 years ago '08        #2
Dee Grande 1269 heat pts1269
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people basically just imagine those same 3 clips of the pistons fouling jordan, then apply it to the whole era
 5 years ago '11        #3
Kadillac87 225 heat pts225
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 5 years ago '11        #4
Bullet22 75 heat pts75
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[pic - click to view]

 06-08-2013, 11:24 AM         #5
SeaJaiye 
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Keep in mind that this video was made to illustrate just how physical the Pistons were, yet on more than half the plays Jordan is unscathed. Bill Lambeer and Dennis Rodman get some good shots in, but modern players wouldn’t cower in Laimbeer’s wake — they’d probably just dunk on him. [NOTE: imagine what would happen if a team were to play that defense against LeBron. He'd literally get 20+ a.ssists every time.]
i said this in a thread the other day

somehow bx believes the greatest player ever at getting to the basket would be scared to attack bill laimbeer, rick mahorn, etc. cuz of some hard fouls

80s n 90s was a weak era
 5 years ago '07        #6
Sleazy 2 heat pts
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Larry Legend personally hates Bill Lambier to this day man! They do not get along and Larry has no respect for that man. Lambier would personally try to hurt you and take you out of the game if it helped the team win. He gave no fu*ks about who you were. His job was to intimidate and he did that by any means necessary. Today's superstars would probably just dunk on him?! SMH.
 5 years ago '05        #7
lakersboy03 6 heat pts
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 5 years ago '04        #8
nitetrain8601 23 heat pts23
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[video - click to view]


Back then, you tried some bi*ch sh*t, you'd get dealt with. These days, it's okay to stop playing to complain to the refs. There's no handchecking now where you can guide the defender. Flopping happened less than 3 times a year, now each star player does it at least 10 times a year.
 5 years ago '07        #9
r.burgundy 16 heat pts16
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 Dee Grande said:
people basically just imagine those same 3 clips of the pistons fouling jordan, then apply it to the whole era
why do people try and write this revisionist history that tha bad boys were tha only tough team,and it was only tough cause of hard fouls.it was just a different breed of man back then
 5 years ago '04        #10
dre03 
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 SeaJaiye said:
i said this in a thread the other day

somehow bx believes the greatest player ever at getting to the basket would be scared to attack bill laimbeer, rick mahorn, etc. cuz of some hard fouls

80s n 90s was a weak era


Talking about the same player that whines and cries when somebody knocks his head band off??? Laimbeer and Rodman would punch this n*gga in his throat... He would leave the game bloodied just like Jordan... Jordan had more heart though... LEbron would probably just quit...

Laimbeer was dirty but he wasn't no punk... Just ask Charles Barkley why he played for a week looking like the toxic crusader... Laimbeer gave no fu*ks... As high as Lebron jumps he would be so vulnerable they would probably end his career with their dirty tactics...
 06-08-2013, 11:49 AM         #11
Throbbin' Thicke 
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I'm simply just tired of all the old players talking down about the game the way its played today and how people wouldnt do this or that in their league. I'll be honest with you every generation says the same thing, my era of sports was better, my era of music was better, my era of school was better etc...

Your time passed and its a new era whether you like it or not.
 5 years ago '05        #12
Bea5T 137 heat pts137
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People act like every team played as hard as the pistons did :jayhah2:

That's like using the Grizzlies to judge overall defense today. Go look at some old jordan highlights. Most teams were down right laughable on defense. No transition D, No collapsing, No intricate defensive schemes...it was just straight man to man.
Aztlan gave props
 
 5 years ago '04        #13
nitetrain8601 23 heat pts23
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[video - click to view]


Superstar players were down to get gully. Now you got players holding their eye on a shot they missed and which no one touched them.


[video - click to view]



[video - click to view]


Notice how these players aren't bi*ching. They're like, "alright, you gon disrespect me, I'm gon disrespect you." and they chalked it up to the game. Players these days, they get hit like that, they're crying.


[video - click to view]


Star players were in the middle of that sh*t.


[video - click to view]



[video - click to view]


Players going after each other when the final buzzer sounds. Greg Anthony cole blooded!
 5 years ago '05        #14
Bea5T 137 heat pts137
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 Dee Grande said:
people basically just imagine those same 3 clips of the pistons fouling jordan, then apply it to the whole era
Basically. The Pistons were the outliers.
 5 years ago '09        #15
WasabiTuna 20 heat pts20
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If you can't see how watered down the Nba is today you must of been born post 1990. It's really not that fun to watch anymore with the refs dictating games, players flopping and lack of basic fundamentals.
 5 years ago '11        #16
Bullet22 75 heat pts75
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why is everybody tryna act like jordan played through the toughest most physical best defensive era when there was 6 expansion teams added in jordans era
 06-08-2013, 12:10 PM         #17
Vincent Vega 
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 dre03 said:


Talking about the same player that whines and cries when somebody knocks his head band off??? Laimbeer and Rodman would punch this n*gga in his throat... He would leave the game bloodied just like Jordan... Jordan had more heart though... LEbron would probably just quit...

Laimbeer was dirty but he wasn't no punk... Just ask Charles Barkley why he played for a week looking like the toxic crusader... Laimbeer gave no fu*ks... As high as Lebron jumps he would be so vulnerable they would probably end his career with their dirty tactics...
Uhhh Charles gave him 2 black eyes and walked away unscathed, try again
 5 years ago '04        #18
nitetrain8601 23 heat pts23
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 Neo22 said:
why is everybody tryna act like jordan played through the toughest most physical best defensive era when there was 6 expansion teams added in jordans era
1)What does being an expansion team have to do with anything?

2)Miami was an expansion team and they were putting knots in Scottie Pippen's head and getting gully with JVG.

3)Look at above evidence. A player like LeBron or Wade gets touched like that these days, they stomp up and down until they get a foul call.
 5 years ago '04        #19
Pichito25 2 heat pts
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 Neo22 said:
why is everybody tryna act like jordan played through the toughest most physical best defensive era when there was 6 expansion teams added in jordans era
what does expansion teams have to do with physical play


what?....players on expansion teams aren't allowed to foul hard?
 06-08-2013, 12:14 PM         #20
Throbbin' Thicke 
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 WasabiTuna said:
If you can't see how watered down the Nba is today you must of been born post 1990. It's really not that fun to watch anymore with the refs dictating games, players flopping and lack of basic fundamentals.
Serious question. What year were you born?
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