Sports fans love to bring up hypothetical questions when it comes to their favorite sports players and teams. One such example is whether LeBron James is actually as good or better than Michael Jordan. These types of debates are ongoing, sparking heated discussions, backed by both statistics and theory.
As we took a journey back in time, we found ourselves wondering, how would the great Larry Bird fare in today’s NBA?
The first thing to consider when trying to answer this question is the distinct difference between the NBA today and the league back in the 1980s and 90s. While it’s certainly true that players have generally improved, and the level of athleticism and talent has gone way up overall. But there are also factors that would have made it much tougher to play back then. The most resounding difference is defense.
The physicality with which the game was played was much more intense. Players actually played defense. They wouldn’t just let opponents score at them with ease. The punishment of taking the ball to the basket was real. But Larry Bird was able to overcome all of that, putting up incredible numbers in the process. While his numbers declined toward the latter years of his career, his overall points per game was still very high at 24.3.
Perhaps even more impressive was the fact that Bird is a member of the 90-50-40 club. For those who are unfamiliar, that means his career averages for free throws, field goals, and three-point shots were all above 90 percent, 50 percent, and 40 percent, respectively. Considering that teams were far less focused on outsides shooting back in Bird’s era, just imagine how great his numbers would look if the strategy centered around him taking more outside shots. He was one of the purest sharp shooters this game has ever seen. And he was able to reach all of his accomplishments without even taking that many shots.
On top of his impressive scoring prowess, Bird managed to pull down a whopping 10 rebounds per game, as well as getting his teammates involved with 6.3 assists per game. That is quite remarkable for a small forward, who had to fight his way for every ball, in a much more physical era than today’s NBA. Bird is known for having a very high understanding of the game. It’s this level of IQ that enabled him to see the game differently than his opponents.
In the modern age of the NBA, Bird’s teammates would be far superior to the ones he actually had. That is not intended to diminish them in any way, but rather simply a fact. Had Bird been a part of any of the super teams that exist today, which consist of so many other stars on the roster, his numbers and on-court performances would be out of this world. He could shoot with the best of them, and his vision to find teammates in scoring position is truly a gift that not many players have.
Like many of these great theoretical debates, there is truly no way to know just how well Larry Bird would fare in today’s NBA. But just by looking at his natural talents and abilities, it’s fair to say he would be even more successful, likely positioning himself as one of the top players in the entire league.