The Evolution of the Game
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The Evolution of the Game

From Wilt to Shaq, West to Stockton, Jordan to James, the game has changed. But how did we get to from there to here?

The Evolution of the Game

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, basketball was played in short shorts and Chucks. There was no three-point line, and dunking was illegal. Now, the dunk is glorified, and baggy shorts drip past the kneecaps of almost every single NBA player, unless you are 7’ 4” and no pair of shorts can make it past your knees. 

What happened to the NBA, to where a BIG 3 can carry an entire team to a title? Several factors helped escalate basketball to another dimension and universe, to where stars are made at 18 and duds at 21. The present is always talked about and recorded, but how we got here was a journey.

1. The Three-Point Line

The three-point line revolutionized the game of basketball. Not only did it make games more exciting and electrifying, it lowered the focus on low post and block players. Now, teams with pinpoint shooters had a new strategy to beat teams, and it was a new transition game to put into motion. New offenses developed to help set screens and open up shooters to new spots on the court. Not to mention, no lead is now ever big enough. Be it twenty entering the second half, or ten with three minutes left, the three could bring a team back from the dead. 

Needless to say, the three-point line changed the game forever, and for the better. But before its existence, no shot could electrify a home crowd like that of a three-point shot today. I’ve enjoyed watching my fair share of comebacks in the NBA playoffs because of a team that caught absolute fire from behind 23 feet, 9 inches.

2. Bird-Magic Rivalry

It has been dissected, analyzed, enjoyed and debated. Long before even I was born, and before the reign of his Airness, two legends propelled the NBA towards its present condition. 

Entering the 1980s, the NBA needed a boost, following the ABA competition and the retirement of a previous generation’s stars. It needed a spark, something for everyone to follow, whether you were a fan or not. But it needed the spark to happen in a big market city, with a storied history. 

The wish was granted in two of the greatest players of all time, Larry Bird and Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Respectively, the two went to two of the biggest franchises in the sport, Boston and Los Angeles. And for the decade of 1980, they thrilled NBA fans with their dazzling ability and heart. Each wanted to win, and win, and win, and then win again. It escalated the game and the following of professional basketball. 

They were polarizing figures: one with charisma and a huge personality, and the other with quiet ambition and heart. It also didn’t hurt that through their battles and trials they became best friends, showing the world that sports didn’t have to be mean-spirited or hateful. They raised the NBA to new heights with their immaculate, riveting and friendly battles.

3. His Airness Takes the Crown

You may have heard of him. He’s not the most well known I guess. Just a little player named Michael Jordan. But here I’m not going to talk about his incredible statistics or drive to succeed. We all already know that and how he revolutionized the game for future players. Every up and coming prospect will now be compared to him both physically and mentally. 

Jordan was the perfect combination, and a great successor to the NBA empire built by Magic and Bird. But Jordan not only infatuated fans on the court, he brought himself to the public off the court as well. Through the age of commercialization and computerization, Jordan created his own brand, elevating himself to new heights. (Space Jam anyone?! I'll still argue it’s the best sports movie ever.) He paved the way for many other NBA players to become spokesman and endorsers of everyday products, some already established and some of their own created ones. 

Either way, Jordan was the leader. He was the NBA, and almost everyone in America will tell you they know who Michael Jordan is one way or another. He brought professional basketball popularity, money, endorsers and pizzazz. The NBA would look a whole lot different without his contributions.

The NBA has had an incredible journey from its beginnings all the way to now. During this past weekend’s All-Star festivities, players gathered to display and compete their talents against one another for pride and bragging rights. And it made me think of the basketball in the 1960's, when a slam-dunk contest would have been unheard of. How did we get from point A to point B? It was a combination of many things, but the three reasons above exemplified some of the biggest alterations and contributions to the game I could think of.

Through Magic and Bird, the NBA could be exciting again. And Jordan took it to another level, commercializing the game and bringing more media attention than any other star, ever. Professional basketball got from point A to point B through its players. Through the willingness to win and try new things at all costs in order to outperform opponents. 

Personally, I like to think of what the game used to be like, but I also enjoy where it is at right now, and am excited for the future. Maybe even a four-point line? Who knows.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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