As a history buff and someone who has followed the NBA for over 70 years, I often hear NBA fans refer to “older” players who played in the NBA as “plumbers.”

I don’t know exactly what that means. I agree that today’s players are much more athletic and taller than the players who played in the league in the 50’s and 60’s, but I don’t think I would call them “plumbers” or call them modern-day players. It’s unfair to say you can’t afford not to play in the NBA. Accurate. I can think of several players who could play in today’s NBA. Many of them will become stars. They all benefit from the way the game is called today. Rick Barry said, “if Elgin Baylor was playing today, with the way traveling and palming the ball is called, he would average over 30 a game”. He is right. I watched Baylor play a lot, and he was able to fake headers, hesitate, and go to the basket with some of the greatest players of all time. I watched the playoff game last night and he must have had 20 road calls that weren’t called. I’m going to digress and get back to pre-80s players who would be better in today’s NBA than when they played there.

There are four players that come to mind that would benefit from not only the way the game is called, but more importantly the three-point arc and the distribution of the floor on offense. In the early days of the league (1950-60), Paul Arizin was the best outside scorer and the first guy I ever saw shoot a jump shot. His career averages were 22.8 points, .448 from the field and .818 from the free throw line. During his best basketball years, he served in the military for two years. This military commitment came after a superb 1951-52 season during which he scored an average of 25.4 points per game. He is #59 in my book of the greatest players of all time.

Jerry West played from 1960 to 1974 and averaged 27 points per game WITHOUT shooting three-pointers. He shot .474 in the field on shots that today are called “long” two shots. He was an athletic point guard standing 6 feet 3 inches tall. He could drive and could create his own blow. He seemed to play his best in playoffs. “We don’t have the players to protect West,” Russell said during a playoff series against the Lakers. He’s number 14 on my all-time list.

The third player that I think would be better today than when he played from 1971 to 1980 is Pete Maravich. For any basketball fan that did not see “Pistol Pete” play you missed a “one of a kind”. (I can’t think of any modern-day player who can match Maravich.) I’ve heard all the talk about who “Gunner” Maravich is and why his teams didn’t win; is not a problem. My opinion is that the “old” players are probably better now than they were when they were playing. My imagination runs wild when I think about what he can do with 3-point shooting in the open court. He averaged 24.2 points per game in the NBA and 44.2 points per game in college. He was one of the best passers and ball handlers of all time. He would be even more inventive and more difficult to keep if the authorities did not call him a “walker”! He’s number 73 in my book.

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