Uncommon Sense

January 25, 2022

WTF, NBA Fans?

Filed under: Sports — Steve Ruis @ 8:56 am
Tags: ,

Now that the NBA season is fully under way there is, of course, talk, talk, talk about who is worthy of certain awards: Most Valuable Player, Comeback Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, etc. And when comparisons are made, I often hear the phrase “in the modern NBA” which seems to equate to “since the NBA has been on TV a lot.”

The reason for this is clear. If a modern players stats are compared with all players across the board, they don’t look so good.

For example, in Wilt Chamberlain’s rookie season, 1959-60, he averaged 37.6 points, 27.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 72 games. He was selected to play in his first All-Star game. He won the Rookie of the Year award and his first MVP award.

In his career, he is also the only player to average at least 30 points and 20 rebounds per game over the entire course of his NBA career. He clearly stated that he stopped trying to be a leading scorer later in his career because his team needed other things. So, Wilt became the only center to lead the league in assists for a season.

Wilt also averaged over 48 minutes per game in a single season. Wait, how many minutes are there in a game? (Answer: 48, not counting overtime minutes) Some wags attribute Wilt’s incredible stats to his large number of minutes played, but they have that point backward. If any “modern” player were to play that many minutes, what do you think the result will be? I will tell you: injury, lower performance, etc. Wilt was not only the strongest player in the NBA when he played (possibly so far), but he also had the most stamina.

Some go so far as to claim that the level of competition was lower “back then.” Well, there were far fewer teams. As a result, because Wilt and Bill Russell were both in the Eastern Division for much of their time they met a whopping 94 times in the regular season. In the playoffs, they added another 49 matchups. Imagine having to play against the best center in the league that many times. (Wilt said that Bill was the best center he ever played against. Bill said that Wilt was the best center he ever played against. I have them ranked 1a and 1b all-time.)

And, Wilt Chamberlain averaged 30.0 points, 28.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists in those 94 games versus Bill Russell. And, Bill tells the story of when he watched the greatest rebounding game in NBA history. Wilt grabbed 55 rebounds in one game. Bill says he had a great seat to see this happen, as he was the opposing center. Imagine setting the all-time record for rebounds in a game while being guarded by one of the greatest defensive centers of all time. (Bill averaged 22.5 rebounds per game for his career. And you might want to note how many the “great” rebounders average now . . . 15-17.)

And to top off the whole argument a fan observed about 120 games Wilt played in and counted the number of shots he blocked. (Blocked shots did not become an official stat until later.) In those games Wilt averaged over eight blocks per game. Currently the NBA leader is averaging just under three blocks per game. And, in addition, I have seen film of Wilt blocking the unblockable shot, Kareem’s Sky Hook.

Modern NBA, my ass.


  1. I didn’t know there was someone named Wilt in the National Brewers Association. Didn’t even know they played games. I thought they were too drunk to even remember the rules to Rock, Paper Scissors.

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by grouchyfarmer — January 25, 2022 @ 10:23 pm | Reply

    • :o)

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Steve Ruis — January 26, 2022 @ 8:40 am | Reply

      • You can probably tell I’m not exactly a big sports fan. I hate basketball and football. No, that’s too strong of a word. “Hate” implies some emotional involvement on my part and I can’t even work up enough feeling about them to care enough to hate them. I kind of like going to baseball games down in Milwaukee. Not because I like the game but because when I go to the stadium I can wander around the concourse eating amazingly tasty junk food I’m normally not allowed to even get close to.


        Comment by grouchyfarmer — January 27, 2022 @ 6:26 am | Reply

  2. A baseball park food fan, then? :o)

    So much energy goes into “sports talk,” most of which is wasted effort, but possibly entertaining. I usually only write about sports because of the grotesque ignorance shown by many commenters.


    Comment by Steve Ruis — January 27, 2022 @ 11:02 am | Reply

    • “Possibly entertaining” …???? YUK! I even hate listening to the announcers because of the way their speech changes as they report those “play-by-plays.” 🤢🤮


      Comment by Nan — January 27, 2022 @ 12:00 pm | Reply

      • “Sports talk” is the idle chatter tat happens between sporting events, not during them. And it apparently is entertaining for the people participating becasue there is so damned much of it. For my part, an excellent sports announcer (Vin Scully, John Madden, etc.) is a joy to hear. Most of the rest are quite forgettable.


        Comment by Steve Ruis — January 27, 2022 @ 1:16 pm | Reply

  3. I love the arguments that you are bringing up, and while I don’t want to start an argument, I’m afraid you’re missing some crucial points. I agree that the modern NBA is lacking in competitive spirit as the NBA of old; but when you refer to the modern NBA, I’m not sure what era you’re talking about. The 1980s and 1990s were extremely physical and competitive, but they were on TV (even though at times on tape delay). When you bring up the Goliath’s from the 1960s, aside from Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain, who’s numbers are comparable to those of Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Larry Bird? Very few, that’s for sure. On the subject of Chamberlain, I’m afraid there are a few points you’re missing. The first is that Chamberlain did not become a better passer in the later years of his career because his team needed him to; it was because he had broken every scoring and rebounding record and needed a new challenge. Chamberlain was a very selfish basketball player, and if you don’t want to take my word for it, I suggest reading Bill Simmons’ The Book of Basketball, which goes very deep into this subject. In addition, Chamberlain padded his stats above all else, which is evident in his 2-4 record in the NBA Finals. Bill Russell averaged around 15-17 points per game at various times in his career, which can easily be matched by modern players (like Norman Powell and Kyle Kuzma), and he has 11 championships. So, statistical greatness does not equal winning, not now and not in the 1960s. In addition, Chamberlain was so athletic that he could afford to play every minute of every game in his amazing 1962 season where he averaged 50.4 points per game. This is where the stats Per 48 minutes and Per 36 minutes come in; they show the production of a basketball player in 36 minutes and 48 minutes played per game. Chamberlain’s numbers decrease drastically Per 36, so that they are comparable to 2020 Giannis Antetokounmpo, a modern MVP and star. I appreciate the argument you are trying to make, but the reason that people on TV and fans say “In the modern NBA” isn’t because of how much greater the older players were, it’s because the game was played differently. There was no three-point line in the 1960s, and the paint was much shorter and skinnier, which made it ridiculous easy for Wilt and Bill to grab rebounds and block shots. Throw them in the 2020s and I guarantee their numbers go down with more threes and long rebounds, and guards having more room to operate in the paint. Throw Giannis or Joel Embiid into the 1960s, and watch as they too put up Goliath, super human numbers. Every shot on the court was worth two points back then, which meant there was no point in taking outside shots; the closer the better. Every era is different in someway, which makes it incredibly hard to compare them to one another… I find this is the reason people say in the modern NBA, not because the older players were so much better. Just my thoughts. I would love to hear your take on this subject. Keep writing!


    Comment by texmexmix3 — February 9, 2022 @ 6:29 pm | Reply

    • Re “Chamberlain padded his stats above all else, which is evident in his 2-4 record in the NBA Finals.” It is a team sport. Ask yourself “If Chamberlain and Russell were to have switched teams, who would have had the more wins?”

      And I wasn’t claiming that the “older players were better,” just that comparisons were being made that were limited in time. As a point of fact I think the modern players are better in almost every way. They got better coaching, better training, better nutrition, better sports medicine, better sports psychology and they got “load management.” :o) But players should only be compared to their competition, with occasional forays into the record books. And they should be labeled as “best of the current crop, or some such. Talking about GOATs is bar talk at best as comparing players between eras is bloody difficult.

      As for the 3-point shot. When somebody has a very high score (more common of later). I look to see how many “3s” they got and mentally deduct 1 point from their total for each to come up with how many points they would have gotten in the “pre-3” era. For example, when Kobe got his 81 game, he had 7 threes, so if there were no three point line, he would have had 74.


      Comment by Steve Ruis — February 9, 2022 @ 8:44 pm | Reply

  4. To respond to your first point, if Russell and Chamberlain switched teams, I’m confident Russell would still end up with significantly more titles then Chamberlain. Maybe not 11, but pretty close. Russell had a winning mentality, as seen by all his teammates and Red Auerbach. The man would literally barf before big games because he was so nervous. While basketball is indeed a team sport, Chamberlain was a glory hog and ball hog, If you’ve ever played basketball at a high level, then you know how a player who commands the ball for too long and tries to do too much isn’t fun to be around. Chamberlain would often score well over half of his team’s points (just look at his 100-point game).

    I completely agree with your point about how modern players have all the benefits you can ask for, and that comparing players between eras is also deep theorization, not fact. I agree that players should only be compared to their competition, and I’m pretty sure that’s the reason why fans or TV announcers always say “in the modern era.” They’re doing exactly as you asked, and only comparing players to other players that played the game the same way.

    As for the three-point shot, I think it’s worth noting that the top scoring performances in NBA history, aside from Wilt, come from Kobe (as you mentioned), Elgin Baylor, David Thompson, and David Robinson. Of these five, only Bryant and Robinson had the three-point line; and Robinson went 1-for-2 from beyond the arc during this game. I don’t know if it’s fair to subtract a point from every three-point shot, because if the players were playing without a three-point line, they wouldn’t be shooting from the outside at all. Chances are, they would shoot where there was a higher percentage of shots going in; closer in towards the basket.


    Comment by texmexmix3 — February 10, 2022 @ 4:51 am | Reply

    • Re “. . . if the players were playing without a three-point line, they wouldn’t be shooting from the outside at all. Chances are, they would shoot where there was a higher percentage of shots going in; closer in towards the basket.” The advantage the long shot had was there was less defence, the farther from the basket you were. If players could establish a decent percentage for those shots, they would take them. The problem with the 3-point shot is if you averaged 50% on “twos” you would only need to average 33% on “threes” to score as well. So, what you see today is all kinds of people shooting threes, but there are consequences. Long shots create long rebounds when missed. A consequence, and you can see this clearly in the modern game, is that temas no longer crash the boards on the offensive end. Someone jacks up a three and everyone else turns and “gets back on defence.” As a consequence, when teams aren’t shooting all that well what we see is the ball come up, the three is shot, missed and then the ball goes the other wa, a three is shot and missed and … (lather, rince, repeat). The 24-second clock was established to prevent teams from working, working, working for a better shot (and sometimes stalling to keep the score down–remember the “four corners”?). Now teams rarely run out of time because a shot is jacked up after 7-9 seconds. To me, this is boring basketball.


      Comment by Steve Ruis — February 10, 2022 @ 8:47 am | Reply

      • This is helping to prove my point. If Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain played in the modern NBA, they would have significantly less rebounds because of all the three-point shooting. Everything is all about the era which guys played in; they can’t control that.

        I’m not going to lie, there has been a lot of three-point shooting which can make the game boring to some. But after the implementation of the new foul rules, players are starting to take less threes, and become more physical in how they play the game. Every single year, the amount of three-point attempts taken per team has gone up since 2015. However, during the 2020-21 season, the team with the most three-point attempts, the Utah Jazz, averaged 43.1 per game. During the 2019-20 season, the Houston Rockets averaged the most three-point attempts per game, with 45.5. This year, during the 2021-22 season, the team averaging the most three-point attempts is the Minnesota Timberwolves, with 41.3 attempts per game. This averages around 44% of total shots being taken from three.

        This isn’t the 2000s Phoenix Suns. Unless it’s a fast break, teams don’t normally run to the three-point line and let it fly. They’re finding value in the post with big men like Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, who are all MVP frontrunners. The NBA has recognized the value of the center position, and it’s coming back to life. I don’t know how much basketball you watch, but I generally watch at least one game a night, and games on national TV wouldn’t average a few million viewers if they weren’t entertained by the game.

        I get where you’re coming from with teams like the Houston Rockets jacking up an absurd amount of threes, but watch other teams as well; they don’t all do this. More players are starting to shoot mid range shots. As Grant Napear, the Sacramento Kings’ announcer says, “If you don’t like that, you don’t like NBA Basketball.”


        Comment by texmexmix3 — February 14, 2022 @ 4:58 am | Reply

        • You referred to Grant Napear. I was a Kings season ticket (package) holder back in the Vlade, Webber, Christie days. Are you from that area?


          Comment by Steve Ruis — February 14, 2022 @ 11:14 am | Reply

          • Unfortunately, I am not. Those were some great teams the Kings had in the early 2000s, before their long playoff absence. If only the refs hadn’t screwed them over in the 2002 Western Conference Finals…


            Comment by texmexmix3 — February 18, 2022 @ 5:23 am | Reply

  5. I love this topic. why? Because of stuff like the 75th anniversary team and the top 15 coaches of all time. My problem with those lists is that they always seem to skew modern and people, voters fans, etc., forget the history. I’m sorry, but Eric Spolestra may be a good coach, but why is Don Nelson not on that list? Spolestra is not one of the 15 best, nor is Steve Kerr in my mind. Not that they arent great coaches (or overrated perhaps) But just too new for me.


    Comment by My Life — March 11, 2022 @ 4:13 pm | Reply

  6. Ggu8

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Hidtisuela — March 18, 2022 @ 3:45 pm | Reply

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