One of the more nauseating side effects of giving former athletes prime speaking platforms is having to listen to them spew their "back in my day" garbage. Old NBA heads are the worst.
There are certainly worthwhile, compare-and-contrast conversations to be had about different eras. But if you're one of these guys who try to claim the likes of LeBron James or Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant couldn't have hacked it in the big bad 1980s and '90s, please, for everyone's sake, just put down the microphone. Half the dudes in the '80s had trouble dribbling with their off hand.
The latest utterly asinine old-head slight on today's stars comes to us courtesy of Charles Oakley, who recently said on the "No Pump Fakes" podcast that 6-foot-11, 250-pound, two-time-MVP, NBA-champion and absolute freak-of-an-athlete Giannis Antetokounmpo "wouldn't have been a force back in the day" and, in fact, would have "come off the bench."
"He wouldn't have been a force back in the day," Oakley stated with astonishing audacity. "He would have struggled because they would make him shoot jump shots. He wouldn't be doing no [Eurostep] to the basket and just get a layup. Somebody's gonna knock his head off. ... I'm glad he's doing what he's doing now, but he definitely wouldn't have ... he'd come off the bench back in the day."
I promise you, I'm not making this up. Listen to the clip for yourself.
Charles Oakley says Giannis Antetokounmpo would come off the bench in his era 😯— NBACentral (@TheNBACentral) February 25, 2022
(Via @SLAMonline | h/t @AhnFireDigital ) pic.twitter.com/K2KD1waL22
You might remember Oakley. He averaged nine points and nine rebounds for over a 19-year career that was largely made possible by the fact that "back in the day" you didn't actually have to have world-class basketball skills to be a starter, let alone a bench player, in the NBA. You could just be a tough guy who could grab rebounds and make a 17-footer here and there.
Being that Oakley was a starter in the prime of his career, what he's saying, effectively, is that he was a better player than a two-time MVP who apparently wouldn't have been able to crack the first five. Think about that madness.
Side note: I always love when we try to say these absolute hulk athletes in the league today would be the ones getting their heads knocked off back when, as if Giannis or LeBron, who are basically the offspring of a tank and a race car, would somehow be restricted from dishing out their own punishment. Giannis would wad up Bill Laimbeer and slam him into a wastebasket.
Also, they would force him to shoot jump shots? As if that's some kind of strategy today's defenses have yet to try? Is this serious? Every single defense Giannis has ever faced has been geared toward forcing him to shoot jump shots. He's gotten a ton better at it, but even before that evolution, he was still committing nightly murders in the paint.
When Oakley played it was actually the opposite. You could get by, even thrive, as a big man who couldn't shoot; it's today's game that punishes a lacking jump shot more than ever. This is a ludicrous hill to die on for Oakley. But hey, he decided to climb up the hill in the first place, and God bless the great Isiah Thomas for bringing him back down to reality.
When asked how Antetokounmpo would fare in older eras, the Hall-of-Fame Bad Boy, in between giving Giannis -- whom he called a modern-day pre-injury Ralph Sampson who would "absolutely" be an MVP caliber player in any era -- his due credit, took the time to properly and necessarily eviscerate Oakley.
"Giannis [is] going around Oakley. Giannis [is] going around all of them. He's dunking on them," Thomas said. "He's bigger. He's faster. He's stronger. You can talk all that stuff because you don't play no more. You can talk all that stuff because you've got gray hair, and you're sitting on the sidelines, smoking cigars about what you used to do. That dude would dog you every single time y'all stepped on the court.
"Now, you may hit him hard," Thomas continued. "OK, all right. After you hit him hard, you ain't got no game. You ain't got no game.
"... All y'all stop it with: 'He wouldn't dominate in the [1980s].' We ain't never seen no dude like this come into our league," Thomas concluded. "And give him his props, give him his credit. He would dog anybody in the '80s, '90s, 2000s and 3020 when we get there."
Isiah Thomas on Charles Oakley saying Giannis would come off the bench in his era:— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) March 1, 2022
"That dude would dog you every single time y'all stepped on the court. You may hit him hard. OK. After that, you ain't got no game!" pic.twitter.com/6xYSzwUZse
This is an epic rant. And it's spot on. Thomas has always been great about articulating the virtues of his era without feeling the need to disparage the modern game and its many outrageously talented stars. Allen Iverson is awesome about this, too. I've heard Wayne Gretzky ... Wayne Gretzky! ... say that hockey players are bigger, faster and flat-out better today than when he played, and that it was easier to score in his day than it is now.
This is the Great One for crying out loud, arguably the greatest athlete in any sport in history, and even he marvels at the abilities of today's athletes. But Charles Oakley, an absolute role player with run-of-the-mill NBA skills, thinks Giannis freaking Antetokounmpo would come off the bench? As Charles Barkley, another legendary basher of modern-day players, would say: Come on, man.