Right as Ryan: Evolution in reverse

Ryan Chae, Sports Editor

The NBA has changed. The players have changed. Long gone are the days when stars could be counted on to remain loyal to their franchise. Now, fans have to always check in by September to see if any of their players from last year stayed on the roster.

Before, fans didn’t have to worry about free agent signings. They were used to watching stars staying, resigning, and getting ready for the next season. However, since LeBron left the Cavs in 2010 for the superteam known as the Miami Heat that year, it has become almost a yearly ritual for a superstar to leave their team.

In 2011, superstar point guard Chris Paul requested a trade from the New Orleans Hornets. In 2012, former dominant big Dwight Howard requested a trade from the Orlando Magic to the Lakers and left them for the Rockets in 2013. And then, 2014 saw LeBron return to Cleveland after losing in the Finals to the San Antonio Spurs, forming another superteam with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. Most notoriously this offseason saw Kevin Durant shock the NBA, joining the 73-9 Warriors, the team that defeated his former team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, in the Western Conference Finals.

The characters of players today have changed dramatically. Players have traded in pride and loyalty for money and rings. If that doesn’t show you how much the league has changed compared to the days when legends like John Stockton, Reggie Miller and Elgin Baylor would commit to their team until the end of their careers, then I don’t know what would.

However, it’s not only the players that have changed. The way the game of basketball is played has become something brand new.

Before, the success of the game was heavily based on physicality, solid paint presence and defense. But now, all that has seemed to be thrown out the window.

Today, teams heavily rely on the three-pointer and even big men are being forced to learn to shoot long distances. Twenty-one years ago, the team average for three-pointers per game was 12; last year the league average was just over 24.

This increased usage of the three-pointer has slowly killed the tempo of basketball. It’s as if the entire match is just a back-and-forth game of threes. From this, physical play has decreased and so has the excitement. As a result of this reliance on three-pointers, both inside scoring and star bigs has gone down.

In the past, the league was heavily led by skilled and dominant big men like Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley and Kareem-Abdul Jabbar. Now, the phrase “superstar centers” is just a memory.

Today, fours and fives are expected to be shooters, facilitators, and ball handlers. Players like Draymond Green and Anthony Davis are becoming the model for bigs while physical centers and power forwards are becoming less of a commodity. It doesn’t help that defense is almost restricted to a point where a small bump is considered a foul.

It seems that any play that involves body contact is reviewed for a flagrant or a technical. These unnecessary reviews have also slowed down the momentum and energy of games. You can’t go 10 minutes through a game without seeing a review.

What happened to this league? What happened to physical players like Dennis Rodman and Ron Artest? When did players decide to turn their backs on their teammates and fans for a bit more money and an easy path?

Perhaps it’s just the process of evolution taking place in basketball. Maybe players are adapting to this new, progressive world. However, this adaptation seems to be hurting the game, not improving it.