Would Larry Bird Be Able to Play in Today’s NBA?

Image via espn.go.com

Even though I never got to see him play, Larry Bird is my favorite player ever. I think part of the reason I love the Legend so much is that I saw someone who dominated my favorite sport who didn’t have world class athleticism. He overpowered opponents with his mind to make up for a lack of foot speed, quickness, or leaping ability. When Bird retired, he was revered as possibly the greatest all-around player ever because of how he was always a step ahead of the other team.
 But as the NBA has gotten more athletic, mostly due to improved training knowledge and technology, some have raised the question: Would Bird be able to play in today’s uber-athletic league? My answer is a yes and I am incredulous that the question has been legitimately asked.
 I agree that it’s hard to imagine Bird guarding small forwards like LeBron James or Kevin Durant because he just doesn’t have the foot speed to handle them. But in today’s game, Bird wouldn’t play the three. He would move to the four, and maybe even the five in certain line-ups. Imagine Bird as a stretch four, picking defenses apart with his passing and long-range shooting. That’s what I see for him in the game today.
 Also, Bird would benefit greatly from modern work-out regimens. These days, he would have Pilates to save his ailing back, and he would pay someone to shovel stone for his mother’s driveway, which is when he hurt his back in the first place. His career would have lasted longer.
 I think the question of if Bird could play comes from when people see his athletic ability and (possibly) his skin color and assume his success was a product of his era. Well that’s stupid because the eighties might have been basketball’s greatest era. There’s just no question Larry Bird could survive and thrive in the league now. The NBA is completing its transition back to ball movement and team play as the way to win after the nineties ushered in an era of isolation play around one great scorer. That ball movement is what Bird killed people with. His vision was incredible and it would fit so well today. He would live to make everyone around him better, and take over with his scoring when he needed to.
 I know this is an extreme example because the Warriors have two of the greatest shooters ever, but imagine Bird in the low post in the Warriors post split action, featured from 4:30–6:13 in this video.

(By the way, how scary are the Warriors going to be next year? Yikes.)
 Bird’s passing and scoring out of the post would make this play lethal if he had two good shooters around him. He could do this type of thing for any team today.
 If you want a projection of Larry Bird today, think Kevin Love during the 2014 season when he averaged 26 PPG and 12 RPG, only an exponentially better passer, smarter and more capable defender, and better team leader. I would take that guy on my team. I’m taking Larry Bird.

Originally published at satkia.blogspot.com on August 1, 2016.

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