The only certainty in life, well besides death and taxes, is that over time, everything changes. A lot has changed since June 6, 1946, the day the National Basketball Association was founded. The game itself has evolved, the revenue flowing is tremendous, and we’re seeing younger athletes shift towards a “me” type mentality. Due to financial opportunities and the nature of the business, it’s become less and less common to see athletes stay with one team for the majority of their career. Clearly, the media plays a big part in the changes amongst younger athletes. Their every move is recorded, and their moments, whether good or bad, are televised and written about.
The changes haven’t gone unnoticed, especially by some of the best to ever play the game of basketball. I brought Shaquille O’Neal, Jamaal Wilkes, Dr. J, David Robinson and Norm Nixon into the conversation. How has the game evolved? How have the younger athletes grown towards an attitude of self-entitlement? Their answers are open, honest, and reminiscent of their love and appreciation for the game.
Jamaal Wilkes – Former Laker, 4x NBA Champ, Hall Of Famer
“Sometimes I do. Certainly not in Kobe or Pau, but you kind of wonder about the younger players in general today, about how they feel a sense of entitlement and it concerns me that they don’t have that love affair with the game..they don’t have that love affair with the fans…with the community…and they tend to have an all corporate or all business mentality…that does concern me. It starts at a young age when everyone is catering to everyone looking for the next great player, and of course the shoe companies contribute to it, corporate America…”
David “The Admiral” Robinson: 2x NBA Champ, Hall Of Famer, 10x NBA All-Star
“Obviously there’s not as many big guys….I was fortunate enough to play during a time when I was with Hakeem (Olajuwon), and Patrick (Ewing) and Shaq and we had a bunch of guys that gave us great games, night in and night out…Now, there’s a Marc Gasol and there’s a Hibbert…but it seems like there’s few and farther between. The big guys that are there, you’ve got a 7 foot Kevin Durant and you got a Kevin Garnett, but they’re all playing power forward, they’re shooiting the ball. It’s a different type of game now. It’s changing a little bit…it’s a little bit more of a skill/ finesse game than it was. Back when we were playing you had to be more physical and tougher, night in and night out. Whereas now you can get the ball, run up and down the floor…and the defense hasn’t been quite as critical. I think, especially down the stretch most of the games nowadays are offensive down the stretch who can outscore the other team, but for us it was always who can make stops the most down the stretch.”
Shaq: 4x NBA Champion, 3x NBA Finals MVP, 15x NBA All-Star
“I figured it out, if I told you that we are a product of what you see, would you believe that? For example, me as a big guy, I grew up watching David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, guys that played inside, but then when I came and I killed ’em all, they resorted to shooting jumpers so the big guys we have in there now, they saw the guys that are shooting jumpers and that’s why they liked to shoot jumpers. I figured it out, Dr. O’Neal, I killed off the big man.”
Dr. J, Julius Erving: 3x ABA/NBA Champion, 16x ABA/NBA All-Star
“At that time, I don’t think players celebrated things that we always used to do in the playground, or we used to do in practice when you did em in games because you expected to do them. I think because of the media…the media attention that’s associated with being able to take ownership of something, ‘Ya I did that, look at me,’ self gratification, it’s a lot different. I mean I’m 63 years old, so I’m glad it lives on, but there were better things that you haven’t even seen.”
Norm Nixon: 2x NBA Champion
“If you think about it, before they come out of high school, every game they’ve played been on television, every college game is televised. Our television package used to be 25 games so people didn’t see us play. So, I think a lot of times stars are created before they really put in the work to deserve that title, so I think some guys come in thinking they’re in one place and they’re really not, and I think that’s one of the problems.”