Recently Kareem claimed he could have played longer if he had the privileges of today players.
?I didn?t even get to ride in (charter) airplanes, you know, we had to get up at six and five o?clock and take a commercial flight. Man, you know, these guys don?t know how well they?re treated, you know? It?s a big difference now. ?It?s just that I know now that I can see since I retired that if we had flown in a charter jet, I could have played a couple more years. I think that was the toughest thing to deal with, you know, just the grind of the schedule and having to get those early morning flights.?….Kareem Abdul Jabbar
It’s All Relative
It seems as if Kareem is having a bit of a hard time dealing with his scoring record falling. I don’t think you make this statement if you aren’t a little salty. The players of today certainly have it far easier with all of the luxury travel and accommodations, advanced sports medicine, load management etc. No one will deny that, but the statement is ridiculous in my opinion.
For one it’s completely relative. The pool of players he was playing against/with were also were flying commercial and getting up at the same time and dealing with the same sort of travel. They all had the same level of sports medicine, trainers, and other aspects to deal with in the game of the day. That’s who he was competing against and it’s relative. It’s also called a nap if you don’t like getting up early.
It’s not like Kareem can point to an injury that ended his career and make the case load management or sports medicine of today keeps him playing longer. It’s playing the amount of games he did that allowed him to own the record for 3 decades to begin with. He was uniquely built to play well into his 40’s to begin with being 7-2 and slight of build.
If anything better sports medicine and load management of today may have extended the careers or peaks of other centers that dealt with injury, and made it more difficult for him. Bill Walton for example may have benefited playing today more. Kareem’s body withstood getting up and down the court all those years being slight of build better than most and at his height still had a great offensive weapon to keep him relevant to a point. I don’t see anything really benefiting him more than others of his time. It’s more likely to even the playing field some if anything if modern medicine and load management kept players like Walton upright more.
The issue is that he was just undeniably steadily in decline the last 4 years of his career. It’s also very natural at his age an has happened to every player that has continued to play into their 40’s. He’s certainly one of the best to do it, but the decline is still clear.
It wasn’t much better in the playoffs by the end as well. The Lakers made the finals his last season and were swept. He played a lot in the last two rounds but was largely ineffective shooting 43% from the floor and barely rebounding. If you are going to rebound as poorly as he did you need to at least be an offensive weapon and he wasn’t by that point. That season essentially ended his career.
Had Kareem came back I could see him being effective in moments but he would have probably been nailed to the bench like Robert Parish at a similar age was. That’s the reality that he was no longer a starting level center playing on the level of team he was. Vlade Divac would have almost certainly have been the best center on the team the following season and starting over him by year 2 had he returned.
A better complaint for Kareem would have been with the freshman rules at UCLA and the system that encumbered him in college early in his career. Had he been able to leave as a sophomore even like Magic Johnson did a decade later he would have had 2 more highly productive years that would have mattered. Tacking two more years on the end as he’s suggesting was never going to matter regardless if he had charter flights or anything else available of the modern NBA.