HeartBreakKid wrote: Doctor MJ wrote:
HeartBreakKid wrote:No one in basketball really matters before Magic and Bird which wasn't that long ago, and no one else during the 80s really matters either except guys who had success during the 90s.
Basketball's nostalgia doesn't go that far back because ironically most people weren't watching basketball a long time ago. Always got to laugh when a guy says "you probably were too young to see them play" and they're talking about 2005 players or something.
I'd say baseball is king of nostalgia.
Just want to specifically note that I think Wilt Chamberlain is the extra dimension here that has to be mentioned.
Y'all know that when it comes to player comparison stuff, I'm very much in the Russell>Wilt camp. But as much as I admire Russell on and off the court, I can't deny that Wilt isn't simply the #1 pre-Bird/Magic icon the sport produced, he's someone who (literally) stands out enough that people knew and know him who might never have watched a basketball game.
He was essentially seen as the super-man. More than any other athlete. That's why people still tell tales about him, and that's why we have people earnestly believe many of these tales even in hard core communities such as RealGM.
All this to say that I'd argue it's essentially because of Wilt that basketball conversations that go back to the '60s have remained fairly common, while stuff from the '50s and earlier are much less frequent, and this type of split between the '50s & '60s certainly was no given. (For baseball, by contrast, the '50s - and the '20s before that - represent the most significant decades.)
Sure, people know players before Magic/Bird (Dr.J, Chamberlain, Kareem) but they're more after thoughts. Kareem and Dr.J playing in the 80s did help their obscurity issues.
Chamberlain is reasonably popular relative to his era, but not as popular as someone like Dr.J. They still seem like two guys who's reputations would have took a massive leap if they had done what they had done later.
Regardless, with Chamberlain you still very much hear the "didn't he play against 5'9 guys?" quite often so his era is certainly used against him. It seems like people like to draw a line in terms of competition with Magic and Bird, using a clumsy false pretext that "oh, they had the 3 pointline, that's why it's modern" - even though it's really an obvious excuse just to find a convenient way to cut pre 80s guys out as that would require more thinking and research to rank them.
Wait, you think Dr. J is more popular than Wilt? I personally love Dr. J and am well known for being critical of Wilt, but I'd have said Wilt at least a tier above Dr. J in popular awareness.
Pause, okay I just played around with Google Trends some. Here's how I tend to see the baseline curiosity about these guys - along with a few others it occurred to me to compare - in recent years:
First thing I'll say is that I was actually really happy to see Dr. J do as well as he did. To me, still the most graceful basketball player I've ever seen.
But yeah, Wilt still tops him, and then you can see that Russell tops basically everyone from that '80s era except Bird, Magic, Mike, and the ol' Roun' Moun' - who is the first clue that other things loom larger than past career on this list.
I should I totally agree that Kareem's status has so much to do with him not just being around in the '80s, but being on the Showtime Lakers as one of the two stars. I'm quite sure that Kareem would be way lower on this list if he'd been even better in the '70s but was Artis Gilmore in the '80s.
A similarly, I think it's clear that Cousy having a bigger stature than Mikan & Pettit really wasn't about his good years in the early-to-mid 50s, but rather his presence as a prominent early face of the Celtic Dynasty.
I want to highlight Olajuwon specifically here, though it breaks my heart a bit, to illustrate the case in point. A recurring them of conversation on this board is whether Olajuwon was flat out better than Russell, yet despite achieving the peak that makes us think this 30 years later than Russell peaked, Russell's a bigger deal by this approach, and frankly that sounds absolutely correct.
I think Russell remains a bigger deal to the masses than Olajuwon, and that speaks to how significant the '60s were.
It frankly just bums me out thought that the Mailman is a bigger deal by this metric than Dream, and I find myself thinking not for the first time, that the basketball hero factory just wasn't ready for a foreign mega-star with a strange name...because when you watch him play, he's just so jaw-dropping, he should have inspired Spike Lee-like shoe commercials.
Here's hoping that as the years go on and more of historic basketball is consumed through YouTube, that people will fall in love with his game like it was Shawshank Redemption.
Hey: With what's going on in the world, my fuse is shorter than it used to be, and it's leading my lose my cool and then go on self-imposed breaks from things (such as RealGM). Please try to keep it civil, and I'll be looking to do the same.