Thursday, May 14, 2009

OLD SCHOOL VS NEW SCHOOL NBA - Does 20 years make a difference?

Last night I played in a high school staff vs student basketball game where 17 old and out of shape men and women beat a group of 7 young varsity basketball players. The youngsters were no match for the physical, fundamental, and team brand of basketball that the old schoolers threw at them. This made me think, Is the old school style of player better than the new school style of player?
So I decided to put it to the test... What if the 1989 old school all stars (20 years ago) had played the new school 2009 all stars? Would the old school physical play and teamwork outshine the new school finesse and selfishness? Would retro short shorts and long socks out play the sagging cutting edge new school style?

Here would be the rosters:

1989 1st team players
G Magic Johnson
G Michael Jordan
F Charles Barkley
F Karl Malone
C Hakeem Olajuwon

2009 1st team players
G Kobe Byrant
G Dywane Wade
F Dirk Nowitzki
F LeBron James
C Dwight Howard

So lets pick some criteria and find out which is better old school or new school:

a. Guards
b. Forwards
c. Center
d. Intangibles (championships and pressure)
e. Simulation (I will simulate the games using the what if sim) Click here for WhatIfSports!

Michael Jordan was the best scorer ever to play the game. He could take you off the dribble, he could post you up or he could knock a 3 down in your eye. He rarely missed as evident by his .497 field goal percentage. He also was one of the greatest defenders of all time averaging over 2.3 steals a game in his career.
Magic Johnson would have been a great compliment to Jordan by dishing out assist after assist. Magic averaged over 11 assists a game and blew away the new school players in terms in assist to turnover ratio. He also took good shots averaging an .520 shooting percentage, amazingly high for a guard.
Kobe Byrant and Dwyane Wade can score but they have limitations. With these two on the floor there wouldn't be enough balls to go around. They don't pass like the other two averaging only 4.6 and 5.7 assists a game. These two also don't shoot as well. Neither player tops .483 in career field goal percentage.

Edge: Old School


This position would be the true inside vs outside match up. LeBron James and Dirk Nowitzki represent the new school style forward who plays the perimeter and looks to shoot and slash. They can shoot the 3 which gives them a slight advantage in scoring but they also miss more shots. Both Nowitzki and James average only .477 compared to Malone's amazing .560 field goal percentage and Barkley's respectable .541 percentage. The physical play would not get to James as he is a beast himself but it would get to Nowitzki. Barkley and Malone would have a field day banging him down low. I don't believe James nor Nowitzki could stop Malone or Barkley in the post and if James was off from the outside, which has happened, then it could be long night for the new school forwards.

Edge: Slight Old School


This match up is closer then you would think. Hakeem Olajuwon averaged more points than Dwight Howard but did not shoot as well and believe it or not did not rebound as well as Howard over his career. Now I regard Olajuwon as one of the top 5 centers to ever play the game and his "dream shake" was virtually unstoppable but I think Howard could have given him a run for his money. The factor that tip the scale in Olajuwon's favor is the fact that Howard disappears in some games and is not as big an offensive threat as Olajuwon. Both can rebound and both can block shots but if you need a bucket at the end of the game Olajuwon is your choice.

Edge: Old School


Under intangibles is the ability to make teammates better, the ability to win and the ability handle pressure. No one on the rosters won more than Jordan. His 6 championships proves that he is a winner. He made his teammates better and in the process he won playoff games. Magic Johnson with his 5 rings demonstrates that winning is what the old school team did. All but Malone have an NBA title. Now, in all fairness the careers of the new schoolers is not over so we don't know how many they will win over their whole career. Both Nowitzki and Howard have not won an NBA title and Wade will never win another one unless Shaq comes back. So the only way the new schoolers can top the old school players would be if LeBron and Kobe continue their dominance.
Now if you factor in playing under pressure I think the edge has to go to the new schoolers. If I have to choose someone to take a last second shot it would be Jordan but a close 2a and 2b would be Kobe and LeBron. With 2 possible "go-to" guys, I would have to give the nod in playing under pressure to the new schoolers.

Edge: Even


I will simulate the game of 1989 all stars vs the 2009 allstars this week using the "What If Sports" simulation engine.

I will post the results later in the week. The simulation will play a 7 game series using each players best years. The homecourt will be set to a neutral site.


Edge: TBD

Who do you think would win?


  1. The old school team would win, no question. The difference is defense. All of the old school players, maybe minus Charles, plays tough defense. Additionally, Duane or Kobe would have trouble guarding Magic. Talk about a guard that can post. They would be in trouble. Howard would give "The Dream" trouble bigs, in my opinion are the one thing that has evolved over the years, just due to the handles and size.

  2. This is a very good/hard question. I think we some thing like the Bulls/celtics series, and I'll have to say that the old school team wins, but just barely.

  3. I love the matchups of LeBron and Barkley...two different types of players. I think the weak links are Wade and Nowitzki on the 2009 team and the 89 team has 5 Hall of Fame players. I will be simulating the games and we will see what happens.

  4. Old School would take it, but not as easily as some think. Remember, this was 89 Jordan/Malone/Barkley...they hadn't learned to win big yet. Lebron,Dirk, and DWade have all accomplished more in terms of winning than those three had by '89. And, by '89, Old School's big winner--Magic--had started on the down-slope of his career. The new school bunch would be a handful, but I think ultimately old school would prevail.

  5. The old school would win. I'm obviously a new school guy but here is how I break it down. Magic/Kobe cancel out, Hakeem/Dwight cancel out, Dirk/Barkley cancel out, Barkley/Wade cancel out simply due to their commercial brotherhood, and Michael>Lebron. Therefore, old school wins.

  6. I'm with Prich tho. It's important we acknowledge this is an old Magic and a young MJ. LeBron is approaching his prime, Kobe is in his prime, and Wade is probably in his prime. It would be very close

  7. If you know your retro players you will know that Magic actually became a better shooter starting in 89'. He improved his 3 point shooting from around 20% to over 30% and also improved his free throw shooting during his last 3 years. He could not go by you like he used to so he shot the 3. He also dished out career highs in assists in 89'. I would argue he was better in 89' then in any other year. You say OLD and I say WISE. Something you young bucks need to understand.

  8. Good article. Finally a good analyst on line. Instead of those written by kids who only know the new players.

    To be honest it's really not too much of a contest. Old School would definately win because of a few factors.

    If you watched the recent US olympic team with Howards, Kobe, Wade, Lebron and them play. It's clear they have quite a few weaknesses. These new school players outside of Lebron, none of them have high bball IQ for passing. During the olympics they were a mediocre halfcourt team, while the europeans ran circles around them in the half. The new US team relied mainly on tough defense to score in transition. And that was their only way of scoring during the entire tournament. This is a product of new players playing too much one on one and many of them not even goin to college to learn the game.

    A second HUGE deficiency of the new NBA team. Is they don't really have any post presence at all. Which makes it very tough for them to dominate the halfcourt game. Which is what it comes down to when you really play a competitive basketball game. In the new NBA team. Dwight Howard has pretty much no low post game and no low post moves. Wade, Lebron, Kobe, Dirk.. none of these guys are very good in the post neither.

    If you watch the game US vs Spain. Dwight Howard was getting killed by most european centers down low. Mark and Paul Gasol were killing the US team in the paint, in the post and on the boards. And Dwight was a non-factor against them on both ends.

    The Old School team on the other hand. Every player on that team has a very high basketball IQ. They all were well coached in college. Everyone can pass the ball well, shoot well, and move well without the ball. In the original barcelona dream team. Even though they were playing against inferior competition, the US team with Magic, Pippen, Jordan, Malone, Ewing, Clyde Drexler were passing the ball like demons in both the half court and on the break.

    Defensively, the oldschool team is just as good as the new one if not better. Jordan is a better defensive player than Kobe by far. You still got Scottie Pippen. And they got Hakeem Olajuwon, who is a better defender than Dwight regardless of what stats say. Lebron and Wade are both pretty good defenders. But Old school would get the benefit with MJ, Pip and their bigmen down low. Remember the old school NBA still had Ewing, Robinson AND Hakeem back in the day. Dwight Howard had a tough time against mark and paul gasol.

    The old school US team can score and are efficient in both, the transition AND the halfcourt sets. And the old school US team most importantly has a MUCH stronger post presence, which allows them to execute better in the halfcourt and get higher % shots. Hakeem is one of the greatest centers to ever play in the history of the league. IMO, even a half step better than prime Shaq or Duncan. Jordan is the greatest post Swingman ever. Magic can post, malone can post. Barkley can post. Ewing can post. It's no contest. And the new US team will get pounded with all that inside presence. As we can see they were pounded already by mark and pau gasol.

    To get the answer, just imagine that recent olympics Finals game between US and spain. The new school NBA team BARELY won that game. Now imagine taking out Pau and Mark Gasol, and putting in Hakeem, Patrick EWing, Malone and BArkley instead. And instead of Rudy fernandez guarding Kobe in the second half, it's now Michael Jordan hounding Kobe. And throw in Magic, and even Scottie in the mix too. And really you get the point. haha... unless ofcourse, someone thinks that Rudy Fernandez is a better player and defender than Jordan, and the gasol's are better than Hakeem and Ewing... which I hope no one here would think so.... really in terms of matchups. the "only" thing the new school team has that's very dangerous is Lebron. That guy will be a matchup nightmare. But on the other end...Magic posting the little guys up and Hakeem would kill Dwight. And they still got a prime Jordan who was an athletic freak back in 89.