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Recalling the NBA: What it used to be

Leslie Monteiro



This isn’t your father’s NBA anymore. The days of a player leading his team to a championship on his own was over long time ago.

This is a league now where players adhere to if you can’t beat them, join them. We saw that with Kevin Durant leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder to join a championship-caliber Golden State Warriors team this past offseason. This is a league now where a player recruits others to form a super team as LeBron James recruited Chris Bosh to join Dwyane Wade when he made his decision to take his talent to the Miami Heat in 2010. This is a league now that enables players to force their departure from their own team as Kevin Love, Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams did in recent years.

Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Patrick Ewing, Isiah Thomas, Gary Payton, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Dominique Wilkins and anyone that played in the 80s in their primes must be shaking their heads at today’s NBA players. Yes, Malone and Payton did play for championship-caliber teams in their tail end of their career, but by then, they were nothing more than a role player for the Lakers.


James and Durant can’t defend their reasons to join a championship-caliber team in their prime. They took the easy way out of winning a championship by riding the coattails of other stars. In James’ case, he rode Wade’s coattails, and in Durant’s case, he is riding on the coattails of Stephen Curry’s and Klay Thompson’s.

From my account, James legitimately won his first of his three championships of his career last year when he was the guy that engineered a 3-1 Finals comeback to beat the Warriors. He did not ride anyone’s coattails.

Durant can’t say the same thing if he wins his first championship of his career. It will be meaningless knowing that he needed Curry and Thompson to help him achieve his goal. It would have been more meaningful if he stayed with the Thunder and beat the Warriors and Cavaliers.

James received criticism for taking his talents to South Beach, but to his credit, he went back home to pursue his championship dream for his hometown team two years ago, so no one is on his case anymore.

Durant does not care what anyone thinks, especially his past and present contemporaries. He hasn’t let it bother him based on how he has played this season and in the playoffs. With two more wins to go until he wins a championship, he is not thinking about how he is viewed.

This is the sign of the times. We are in a different era where players fraternize at games. These players have known each other from AAU days, so it’s going to be hard for them to muster their inner hate towards others. With guys networking going back to high school, it’s difficult to see things ever being the same.

It’s a matter of if not when Anthony Davis, Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony-Towns go elsewhere to play for a championship-caliber team.

Durant serves as a society’s problem when it comes to instant gratification. Players don’t want to work hard to be the guy that carries his team to a championship. They want to take shortcuts and take the easy way out to help them accomplish their goal. Some don’t understand the value of hard work. This is the generation of today’s players, and Durant is a poster guy for what’s wrong with the league.

It’s hard to enjoy the league when there are too many super teams.

Growing up as a basketball fan, it was fun watching Jordan, Johnson, Bird, Ewing, Malone, Stockton and Thomas trying to beat each other up rather than joining forces. It was competition at its finest. It was the best product out there back then. It brought fans together. Those were the glory days. That’s when the NBA was the NBA.

It could have been easy for Ewing or others to join Jordan for a chance of a championship, but these guys have pride to do so. This was about them and they wanted to have their own glory.

Just thinking about those memories, it’s hard to accept dealing with the times. It’s hard for a basketball fan that watch the sport for three decades to see what’s going on. It’s not healthy. Today’s players are sending a wrong message to others that it’s okay to take an easy way out of winning a championship.

Seeing what happened in the 80s and 90s made the league unique and neat.

Watching the NBA Finals certainly provide much-needed nostalgia of what the sport used to be.

Leslie Monteiro is a syndicated sports columnist who writes about the Tri-State area teams for the Upstate Courier. He is based in Fort Lee, New Jersey, and can be reached on Twitter @MongoGoesInSane.