Better basketball: 1990s Bulls or today’s game? All the answers are right here in the text
There’s a text chain full of NBA fans who are either (a) young and clueless or (b) old and pathetic. Watching the #Bulls’ run through the 1996 playoffs was either hilariously lame or an Iwo Jima-level example of how much better things used to be.
Not sure if you’ve heard the big news, but the Bulls won the NBA title on Wednesday. OK, so it was the 1996 Bulls and they beat some make-believe team called the Sonics (as if the NBA even exists in Seattle!), but still. It happened right there on my TV, brought to me by NBC Sports Chicago, and I wasn’t complaining.
The picture was a bit grainy and the NBC graphics were pretty much prehistoric, but what was I saying about not complaining? It was a fun watch. Make that a fun re-watch. And let’s go ahead and qualify “fun,” too, because I’m not sure I’d recognize real fun these days if it kissed me on the mouth.
But now I’ve led us off into the weeds again.
Anyway, there’s a certain text chain I belong to. It involves a certain two brothers-in-law and a certain four young-adult sons/nephews. I’m certain that the contents of this chain — named (not by me, I swear) “Gen Z Soft as 10-Ply Tissue” — are about as enlightened and intelligent as your average fire hydrant.
But we seem to be serious NBA fans, at least. More to the point, we seem to be seriously (a) young and clueless or (b) old and pathetic. Thus, watching (or re-watching) the Bulls’ run through the 1996 playoffs was either hilariously lame or an Iwo Jima-level example of how much better and more virtuous things used to be.
But, strewn about Chicagoland in our respective households, we all followed along. I tried to stay out of the blitz of texts as much as possible, but often I caved because, well, I like to hear myself talk. Still, you will find no texts from me below. I’ve taken the liberty of cleaning up the other guys’ texts for basic grammar, spelling and social acceptability (none of which was an easy task).
Where to begin?
“We watched Bulls-Heat from 1996 last night. It. Was. Awesome.”
“Scottie Pippen couldn’t guard Jayson Tatum.”
“Dennis Rodman wouldn’t make an NBA roster in 2020.”
“Michael Jordan would score 200 points on these clowns today.”
Do you see what I mean?
We argued about midrange shots vs. long balls, bickered about old-school hacking and new-school “load management” and wrapped it all in ridiculous blanket statements about talent, athleticism and toughness.
“Jordan couldn’t shoot 3s.”
“Wouldn’t have to against today’s guys. They don’t play defense. Soft!”
“Imagine Ron Harper or Steve Kerr trying to guard Trae Young.”
“One ’90s pick set on Trae Young and he would find another sport to play.”
If I’m being completely honest, it’s the old guys who made a majority of the grand, largely unsupported claims.
“Today’s rules make players more skillful, especially bigs, but heart and toughness are lacking.”
“Today’s players are more interested in big contracts than championships. Big $$$ comes with stats. That’s why Russell Westbrook and James Harden play the way they do.”
At some point, I had to ask what the young guys’ repeated use of a skull emoji meant — dying laughing, it turns out — but that’s neither here nor there.
Someone posted a meme giving four hypothetical duos — LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kevin Durant, or Jordan and Kobe Bryant — from which to choose.
Did I mention the fire hydrant already?
“Jordan plus any of these guys equals winner.”
“Jordan and Kobe would fistfight on the court.”
“Kobe would submit. They all do.”
Because our chain is almost vapid and useless enough to be on ESPN, we finally settled into a (get ready to be amazed by our originality) Jordan vs. LeBron discussion. Take a guess how that went.
“Jordan is the GOAT! The best there ever was. The best there ever will be!”
“Please. LeBron is in his 17th year and would’ve won MVP if the season didn’t get cancelled. Not even close.”
“LeBron is a bigger, better Jordan. Better at everything except scoring — but he could score more than Jordan, too, if he wanted to.”
“Jordan is the GOAT! Anybody who thinks differently can go vape and make TikToks.”
If this is what sports in 2020 has come to, I’m not sure I’m long for it all. Or maybe I’m just soft as 10-ply. Either way, I’m already bracing myself for the back-and-forth throughout ESPN’s “Last Dance” Jordan documentary, which starts Sunday.
The contents of our chain are certain to be as inconclusive as ever.