It has now been almost two weeks since former NBA player JJ Redick made comments on Larry Bird and the physicality of today's NBA game alongside Chris "Mad Dog" Russo during an episode on ESPN's First Take. Redick, being a popular voice for modern NBA fans with his controversial takes on past eras, was discussing all time great three-point shooters with Russo. The debate quickly ramped up which caused Russo to vouch for Larry Bird.
"Larry Bird is one of the top three-point shooters of all time," Russo said on First Take.
To which Redick replied with: "Bird is one of the greatest shooters ever, but he's not a top-five three-point shooter ever. Dog, it's just math. There's attempts, makes, percentages," Redick said directly to Russo on ESPN. Redick continued by stating that there are "plenty of people that have shot more, made more, and--guess what--made more at a higher percentage than Larry Bird from three."
Russo then stated that based on how different the time was when Bird played, this made him a better shooter in his eyes. Things such as the physicality in that era was one of the things Russo used in his argument.
Redick didn't approve of this at all in which he replied in disgust with: "Can we get off the physicality thing, come on man."
Redick immediately faced backlash for these comments. NBA legends Dominique Wilkins and Michael Cooper called him out for what was a foolish take in their eyes, believing that Redick was disrespectful to Larry Bird. "I'm gonna say it right now: He doesn't know what the hell he's talking about. I'm like, what basketball was you watching," Wilkins said to SiriusXM NBA Radio.
After these comments were made, Redick doubled down on his original take on his podcast entitled "The Old Man and The Three." Redick stated on the podcast that his "whole point about the segment was that outside of fouls--hard fouls, and fighting--the physicality, the basketball play-by-play, the physicality is not that much different than today's NBA."
While Redick is a voice for more of my generation of basketball, I have to completely disagree with him on these takes. I'll start with him talking about Bird.
Being an avid Celtics fan myself, it is exceptionally easy for me to say that Larry Bird is a top five three-point shooter of all time. Unfortunately for my older Celtic fans, I do not think that is the case. There are a lot of great shooters in NBA history and it is very difficult to put him in that stacked top five list. But to say that Bird is not one of the greatest three-point shooters ever is ridiculous. Based on Redick's comments, it appears that he is going for two angles to discredit Bird's three-point mastery: efficiency and volume. Perhaps Redick has taken a look at the numbers throughout Bird's career that suggest he was a low three-point shooter for the first half of his NBA tenure. However, I am not sure if Redick is aware that Bird's rookie season, 1979, was also the first year that the NBA introduced the three-point shot. Bird's numbers from the beyond the arc were much improved for the second half of his career which means that Bird legitimately had to learn to shoot a brand new shot that was just brought into the game of basketball during his time in the NBA.
If Redick is simply just looking at the numbers for efficiency, then consider this: Bird shot 42% from three for his career in the NBA Finals which is even better than other all time great three-point shooters in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Not only that, but Bird has a better career average from deep than Damian Lillard, a name that has been brought up in the discussions of one of the greatest three-point shooters ever.
The volume argument that Redick was suggesting is even worse. Redick appears to be hinting at the fact that Bird should not be mentioned with the greatest three-point shooters ever based on the fact that he was not a volume shooter from long. I am not sure if he realizes this or not, but in 80s, Bird was the definition of a volume three-point shooter. For six straight seasons, Bird was top ten in the NBA for three point attempts. If Redick is comparing how many threes are taken today by NBA player's then yes, Bird shot a "low" volume in his day. But in doing this, he is completely discrediting all great shooters prior to the 2010s. This is not only just flat out wrong, but extremely bias.
In terms of Redick's statements regarding the physicality of the league back then compared to now, I believe he is incorrect as well. Insinuating that today's league is just as physical as when Bird played is just simply not true. During that time in the 80's, the flagrant foul wasn't even in the game yet, which means that players back then could get away with a lot more than they can now. For example, Detroit Pistons legend Bill Laimbeer is considered by many to be a dirty player in this era. Despite this reputation, he was still able to play 685 games straight without a suspension. Him and many other players were allowed to punish opposing offensive players when they challenged them for a bucket. This was made easy based on the fact that defensive three-second calls were not introduced into the NBA until the 2001-02 season. This gave defenses the opportunity to just sit in the paint and hammer opposing players without having to worry about being camped in there too long.
In today's game, team's big men cannot sit in the paint for a whole offensive possession and hard fouls are simply not as frequent as they were back then for fear of receiving a flagrant foul call. The style of play today is also drastically different as teams shoot more from the outside instead of playing a more back-to-the-basket kind of game. This bruising style in the 80s was clearly more physical than today's run and gun, up-tempo play and there is nothing wrong with that. But to state that today's game matches the physical punishment that players took back then is a foolish take.
While I may disagree with JJ Redick on these particular takes he made, I do not think that he is by any means being disrespectful towards the previous generation of basketball. Many NBA fans are too quick to throw around that word, but I do not see an issue with vouching and promoting an era of basketball that an individual played in or watched. I simply believe that Redick is wrong with his assessments on Larry Bird's shooting prowess and his era's physicality.
Be sure to check out fansonlysportz.com for more sports content uploaded daily!
Stay tuned for more articles on hot sports takes!