The broadcasting of The Last Dance, the tale of the 1990s Chicago Bulls, has left many viewers pondering the question. Would Michael Jordan have been as dominant a player in today’s NBA?
The answer is a resounding “Yes.” Here’s why.
Jordan was an amazing athlete. He had incredible leaping ability and what many may forget is how fast he was. Jordan had been timed in the 40-yard dash at 4.3 seconds. With his size at 6-foot-6 and speed, and jumping ability, Jordan could do anything on a basketball court.
The modern NBA does not simply dump the ball inside to a 7-footer and let him have at it. Today’s game is more dependent on backcourt and perimeter play. Imagine Jordan’s tenacious defense in the NBA now.
Some might forget that Jordan led the league in steals three times. He was a first-team All-NBA Defensive team selectin nine times and won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award in 1988. There’s no doubt Jordan could defend the likes of Stephen Curry and James Harden.
Jordan grew up in a time when there was no 3-point line in high school or college. When he started playing in the NBA, teams took an average of 3.1 3-point attempts per game. It wasn’t a big part of the game.
If it had been, it would be safe to assume the Jordan that we know would have embraced it worked tirelessly to perfect his 3-point shot. One of the biggest indicators of 3-point shooting prowess is free throw percentage. Jordan shot 84 percent from the line during his NBA career. That’s pretty good.
Imagine Jordan not being hand-checked. That practice ended in 2004. It’s likely Jordan would have produced even more points than his 30.1 career average. Perimeter defense is more difficult in today’s game. That would have been a huge advantage for Jordan.
There may never be another competitor like Michael Jordan. For anyone doubting Jordan’s will to win, watch the final minute of the 1998 NBA Finals. With the Bulls trailing by three points with 40 seconds remaining, Jordan takes the ball to the hoop to cut the lead to one.
On the ensuing Utah possession, Jordan steals the ball from Karl Malone and then hits the game-winning pullup jumper over Bryon Russell to lead the Bulls to their sixth NBA title. That competitive edge is why Jordan would succeed in today’s game.