Shaquille O'Neal was asked for his takeaway from The Last Dance and he said the 90s was the best era of basketball.
But was it? I asked SI's Ben Pickman and "The Fantasy Exec" Corey Parson for their takes on the NBA then vs today.
Pickman: First off, let me say this, I think they're incredibly difficult to compare because of three point shooting and how the game has evolved. You look at Steve Kerr as an example. In The Last Dance season, the sharp shooting Kerr averaged just 2.6 three-point attempts per game. That's crazy in the modern day. He's probably averaging close to ten three pointers per game. And so I think they're incredibly difficult to compare as a whole. But I will say this about the 90s, while we look at the Dream Team and some of the early Hall of Fame talent at the start of the decade, by the end of the decade, the league is a little talent thin. And you look at those All-NBA teams and you see some holes, not Hall of Famers, whereas you look at today's game and I would say today's game is a little bit more talented, more skilled, than it was at the end of the 90s.
Parson: Well, I think when you make the case for the 90s, what you're looking at is the toughness of the sport back in those days with final scores of 87-77 and things like that. But today you have very skilled players and teams will score sometimes 75 points in the first half of basketball games. And I think obviously as Ben mentioned, the players are more skilled. But they don't seem to have that dog,that fight in them. Yeah, guys like Draymond Green and Jimmy Butler do, but I think the evolution of basketball and AAU really has a lot to do with this quality lacking. These kids are coming up treated almost like professional athletes from the time they are 10-11 years old. They're very skilled ballplayers. But the 90s, with those kids, when they were younger, they played on black tops. They were out on street ball courts from sunup to sundown, catching elbows, getting in fights. These players today are not really used to that type of basketball. So I think what difference comes in is the level of toughness. Listen, I like tough basketball players. I don't think today's game is weak though and it is definitely is more skilled than in the 90s.
Verdict: It is easy to reminisce fondly on the 90s. I mean, you could strap on your Timberlands, play some Wu-Tang Clan and think about Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley. So to me, it does come down to preference. It's fine to prefer the style of that era. I just don't think you can say it was superior in talent to today's game. Unless you want to be wrong.