Comparing players from different times is at times quite futile, considering how much the game has changed as well as the rules, and even the courts, making it quite difficult to wonder how those all time greats would fare if they played nowadays.
Nevertheless, we’ve seen players that have been so versatile, so talented and so gifted, that they could absolutely thrive in modern basketball era as well, being capable of adjusting their playing style for the current pace and rules, or simply because their style translates perfectly to modern balling.
So today, we’re going to talk about those 10 players that would absolutely kill it in today’s NBA despite playing in a much different era, sometimes even several decades before the surge of today’ stars like Kevin Durant and LeBron James.
10. Wilt Chamberlain
Wilt the Stilt would definitely thrive no matter who he plays against, as he’s considered to be probably the most dominant two-way player in the history of the league, even forcing the NBA to change some rules and even the dimensions of the court.
Chamberlain was completely unstoppable through his entire career, going down in history as the only guy to record 100+ points in one game while also being able to get more than 20 rebounds on a nightly basis. He would have to develop his physique a bit to play against stronger guys, but he would still be a huge threat in the paint and average over 20 and 13 per contest.
9. Hakeem Olajuwon
Olajuwon is probably the most talented center in the history of the game, having the ability to score over 25 points, get more than 11 boards and block 3 shots per game as one of the most gifted offensive players this game has ever seen.
His signature move, the dream shake, would still put defenders on skate while his athleticism and court awareness would make him a complete spectacle to see nowadays. For those youngsters that never got to see “The Dream”, just imagine Rudy Gobert on defense with DeMarcus Cousins on offense equipped with the best post moves in NBA history.
8. Charles Barkley
Well, considering how soft the league has gotten regarding technical fouls, perhaps Chuck wouldn’t spend much time on the floor nowadays. Still, if you think Draymond Green is great (Which he is), probably you never saw Barkley on an NBA court.
Barkley would provide a lot of versatility in today’s NBA as a fierce competitor in both forward spots, having a great ability to gain and maintain position despite being smaller than your average power forward, while also being a great passer and a prolific scorer that could be just what any team needs to try and contain the Golden State Warriors.
7. Dennis Rodman
You just don’t see players like Rodman nowadays, so willing to leave everything on the court even if that means not even looking to the rim to try and make a basket. Rodman is one of the greatest defenders in NBA history and he could lock down every single big man in the league nowadays as he did during his prime.
The closest player to Rodman in today’s NBA would be Tristan Thompson due to his offensive rebounding ability, although he’s not even a quarter of the dominant player Dennis was through his entire career as an extremely dominant presence in the paint that just wasn’t gonna let you score and if you even dare to try it, you were going to pay the price.
6. Karl Malone
The Mailman was a complete beast in both ends of the court, especially on the offensive end, where he was capable of putting 30+ on any given night for his Utah Jazz alongside John Stockton, creating one of the greatest All-Time duos in NBA history.
Malone’s offense would definitely translate to today’s game, being like a much better version of Blake Griffin with a way more developed physique and post presence, and he’d definitely have a much easier path to the ring nowadays with Jordan out of the game.
5. Allen Iverson
A lot of people are comparing Isaiah Thomas with Allen Iverson and even if you may think they style is quite similar, if Iverson played in today’s NBA with the pace of today’s game, you wouldn’t even know who the hell Isaiah Thomas is.
Iverson would destroy the average defender’s ankle and considering how much the rules have changed, he’d torch every single defender to get to the line for 2 or 3. Allen had one of the greatest handles in NBA history and his crossover was just lethal, and if you want to imagine how would he fare nowadays, just combine Kyrie and Thomas and perhaps you’d be close, as Allen would be on the 40+ plateau on a nightly basis.
4. Larry Bird
Bird would still thrive in today’s NBA, although it’s kind of hard to imagine him being as dominant and prominent as he was during his prime. Still, his offensive versatility and ability to play above the average wing defense would make him a very important player in pretty much every team.
In fact, Larry Legend’s offensive game was pretty similar of what you’d expect from a small forward nowadays, having a great rebounding ability despite not being athletic at all, and perhaps he could be like a Gordon Hayward with better basketball IQ and shooting from beyond the arc.
3. Magic Johnson
One of the greatest point guards in the history of this game would also be a hoot to watch on a nightly basis nowadays, as Magic ran an offense with pretty much the same pace we see in today’s game, and his basketball IQ, defense, rebounding ability and flashy passes would most likely bring yet another Showtime era right now in 2017.
He’d have the same playmaking role as LeBron, but even more developed, while having the ability to defend all 5 positions like Draymond Green, and the scoring versatility of a guard with the size of a big man, also featuring his deadly hook to score over pretty much every single defender.
2. Shaquille O'Neal
We’ve talked about the most dominant player in history and the most talented center in history, so now it’s time to combine both and talk about the most dominant center in the history of this game: Shaq. This monster would simply destroy every guy that dared to face him, averaging over 35 points and 15 rebounds with 4 blocks per game in today’s NBA.
Shaq’ game perfectly translates to every single era of basketball, and even with teams trying to play small and his horrid free throw shooting, there’s absolutely no one that could either contest Shaq’s offense nor try to overpower him in the paint. There has never been such a guy, and there will never be.
1. Michael Jordan
And of course, we can’t close this list out without talking about the man himself, the goat, the reason why most of us love this game so much, the greatest player in the history of the game and a top 5 athlete in the history of sports: Michael Jeffrey Jordan, the ultimate baller.
Jordan would be as dominant (or perhaps even more) on defense than Kawhi Leonard is on the wings nowadays, while also having the ability to put over 40 points in the scoreboard on any given night. Of course, perhaps you’d say that he wasn’t the greatest shooter from beyond the arc, but c’mon? He wouldn’t even need it with all his crafty moves, and he’d still be able to put huge shots from everywhere on the court as the clutchest guy to ever lace them up. Nobody will ever be better than him, and having him for at least one more day in the NBA would be incredible.