A battle of eras

in HOOPS by

The war of words between 90’s superstars and the present day basketball elite rages on.

Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob stated he was genuinely hurt that during a recent dinner where many NBA owners attended, Michael Jordan said the Golden State Warriors 73-win record breaking season didn’t mean anything.

Last week an M.J. buddy, Charles Barkley, took LeBron James to task for allegedly pushing Cleveland management for more star power more players to further stack his NBA title winning Cavs.

Larry Bird and Magic Johnson appear to have taken the high road, as it was none other than M.J. in the 90’s who crashed their high-flying must-see act in the 80s.

Larry Bird, growing up in a world in French Lick, Indiana that in many ways stayed in the past, and endured personal heartbreak is one who will never allow himself to get stuck in yesteryear.

Last June he told ESPN the guys who play now are just as good as they were in when he played. Perhaps the most honest assessment.

At the time he said,  “everybody that plays, no matter if it was ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, they think their era’s the best. Well, prove it to me. Like I said earlier, I think we have more stars than they do now. On every team, they had at least one, maybe two. I’m talking about Dominique Wilkins — you just go down the line. But in saying that, I don’t think our era’s any better than anyone else’s, when it comes right down to it.”

Bird may have a point. The truly dominant appear to have clustered together.

You have Kevin Durant and Steph Curry on the same team. And that’s what kicked this conversation into the same gear. Because in that era, there was not a lot of player movement for superstars in the prime of their career.

Larry stayed with Boston. Magic stayed with Los Angeles. Jordan stayed with Chicago. Dominique left for Boston well after his prime. Reggie Miller stayed at home. Patrick Ewing stayed in one place. David Robinson stayed in San Antonio. Chris Mullin spent his most productive years in Golden State. Karl Malone spent his most productive years in Utah. John Stockton never left Utah. Charles Barkley got traded.

LeBron has had an affair with Miami, now back home with Cleveland. Durant is in Golden State. Carmelo might be headed for his third team.

When speaking to ESPN back in June, one thing that Bird astutely noted was the money has changed.

Larry Bird’s highest salary per year came in 1991-92 season when he was paid $7.1 million per season. LeBron James is making $30.1 million this season and as it would follow, his endorsement money is higher.

The one constant in sports debate is that one can never correctly compare eras.

The one constant in the LeBron vs M.J. debate is that the eras seem to be so distinct. The era beginning with either Kobe Bryant or LeBron James began their NBA careers and the period either when Magic and Bird were doing their thing or the period when Jordan won his first championship to his last.

In the minds of those who debate such things, no other meaningful basketball has been played.