A few weeks ago, a debate arose in a group message between a few of my friends. A friend of mine decided to send a picture of LeBron James, the star forward of the Cleveland Cavaliers, with the following question: “Take LeBron to the ‘90s. Would he dominate the game back then?”
You can probably assume that in a group message with 12 guys, there were some very diverse responses to this question. It was quite the controversy.
It is hard for me to say LeBron would dominate the NBA back in the days of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Reggie Miller and Charles Barkley, to name a few. But there were arguments from both sides of the issue in the group message that I believe are worth mentioning.
The biggest argument for LeBron dominating the ‘90s is his athletic ability. It goes without saying that LeBron James is an athletic specimen. He’s 6’8, weighs 240 pounds, has, roughly, a 40-inch vertical and can run the length of a basketball court in only nine steps (the average NBA player runs it in about 13). With the athletic abilities he has, it’s easy to understand why he dominates the game like he does. LeBron apologists use this as their main argument for why he could dominate in the ‘90s.
The strongest opposing argument has to do with the defense and toughness of the time that is commonly known as the “Golden Era” of basketball. Back in those days, you had fights almost regularly. The Detroit Pistons, also known as the “Bad Boys,” were famous for their hard fouls and smack talk. With LeBron being as big and athletic as he is, guys usually get out of his way when he comes through the lane like a freight train. And when a defender does make even the slightest contact with him, he tends to have an issue with complaining to the referee when a call isn’t made. But, if he were to play in the ‘90s, defenders would have no issue hitting him with a less-than-gentle shoulder nudge to throw him off guard. And they would probably be in his face if he had anything to say to the refs about it.
Lebron is arguably the best overall athlete in the world, and even at his older age by the NBA standards (33), he still dominates the league. But does that necessarily mean he would dominate in the hard-nosed era of the ‘90s? It is probably safe to assume that with his athletic abilities and his extraordinary basketball IQ, he would more than likely be able to adjust to the more physical playing style of the Golden Era. Does that mean he would dominate? Maybe. Maybe not. But he would still easily be one of the best overall players in the league.