The NBA today is a very different place than the one where Charles Oakley mugged and banged his way to an 18-year NBA career. Just after he left is when the NBA changed the rules allowing zone defenses, plus they changed the enforcement not allowing hand-checking on the perimeter. It took time, but that has led to less isolation basketball (you can’t really do that against a Tom Thibodeau-style defense) and a less physical game, one where players can show off their athleticism rather than just get mugged play after play.
Oakley isn’t a fan.
Oakley was in Toronto for Charles Oakley bobblehead night Saturday and said he can barely watch the NBA these days, as reported by James Herbert of CBSSports.com’s Eye on Basketball.
“Who do I like watching? It’s hard to watch,” said Oakley, 51. “I don’t know, it’s just, it’s a different game. It’s some good games and a lot of bad games. More bad games than good games.”
“I don’t know what it is. They just roll you out there like a basketball. That’s why … you see the same teams in the finals or winning 55 games. Strong teams, strong-minded coach. Just the players, they don’t think it, they don’t know how to play together,” he said. “So that’s one of things I see the weakness is: Communication, the guys don’t love the game. They play the game, but they don’t play with their heart.”
Oakley will get a lot of support from some fans who see it that way.
Personally, there were a lot of guys in the 1990s playing just for the checks, too, and to remember it any other way is to put on rose colored glasses. Which we all tend to do about the past and eras we love. We remember the passion with which Michael Jordan played and the way the Knicks physically intimidated and tried to knock him down, and recall that that as representing an era. However, the same year Oakley was an All-Star (1994) the Mavericks won 13 games with some ugly, dispassionate hoops, while the Pistons and Bucks won 20 each and were hard to watch. There was bad basketball then. It wasn’t all passionate team play. People just don’t remember that now.
My opinion is I’d rather watch today’s style of game, where the court has opened up, more threes are launched, and teams have to move the ball to get a good shot against these modified zone defenses than the slow, grinding, muggings that became basketball in the 1990s. Oakley clearly sees it differently.
To each his own.