LeBron James is seen by many as the greatest NBA player of all time, but one retired former All-Star thinks that James would have been less successful had he arrived in the league even 10 years earlier.
Detroit Pistons great Rasheed Wallace appeared recently on “The Million Dollaz Worth of Game” podcast. Wallace touched on the differences between his era and the modern era as well as how James may have fared back then.
“He probably would’ve done good with his physical stature, with him being bigger than the majority of the rest of the players,” said Wallace. “So he probably would’ve held his own. But I don’t think he would be as successful as he is now. It’s a whole different era back then. I couldn’t necessarily say that he would’ve been a beast. But I think he would’ve held his own.”
Wallace, who played in the league from 1995 to 2013, actually had plenty of overlap with James, who entered in 2003. In fact, James’ coming-of-age moment came against Wallace and the Pistons when he scored 25 straight points to help down Detroit in the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals.
The point Wallace appears to be making is that basketball used to look a lot different in his heyday. In the early 2000s, defense was king, and it was not uncommon to see 74-73 final scores. In an effort to improve the fan viewing experience, the NBA then proceeded to ban hand-checking, implement the defensive three-second violation, and call stricter blocking fouls. Those rule changes essentially opened up the lane significantly for offensive players. On top of the three-point revolution of recent years, you might see that same 74-73 score at halftime nowadays.
Still, James, with his size, strength, athleticism and IQ, likely would have adapted to and ultimately dominated any era of NBA basketball. But that won’t stop Wallace and other old-timers from having these kinds of takes.