Even Michael Jordan Thought Michael Jordan Would Struggle Against Modern Zone Defense

Stephen Douglas
Michael Jordan #23
Michael Jordan #23 / Getty Images/Getty Images
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Many people believe that Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player ever. Some take that opinion so seriously that they believe Jordan would have destroyed everyone in this era in a way that made defenders in the 80's and 90's look effective.

One person who did not believe that was Michael Jordan, who worried about star players being hampered by defensive rule changes back around the turn of the century. Via the Chicago Tribune:

"Jordan was making an impassioned plea before the competition committee that had gathered to consider rules changes to enliven the NBA game. Jordan spoke passionately. If teams were able to play zone defenses, he said, he never would have had the career he did."

So it's completely fair if you want to project players stats from different eras into the modern game, just know that Jordan thought zone defense would have hurt his statistics instead of help them. So it's unlikely that Jordan would score 47.5 points per game. He'd probably have more assists per game and his numbers might start to look a little more like the guy leading the NBA in assists this season.

This column is also a good reminder that fear of change is one of the things that never changes. There was concern that Kobe Bryant would suffer too.

" Opponents say scores will plummet further and the individual stars of the game, such as Vince Carter and Kobe Bryant, will be neutralized. And that was Jordan's argument: He believed that allowing any defense, or a zone, enables teams to gang up on the star. Gone will be the highlight-show moves and plays, the ESPN-ization of the game that others contend has been detrimental to sound play."

Vince would continue to be a 20+ ppg scorer for eight more seasons. Kobe would average 25 or more in 11 of the next 12 seasons and scored the fourth most points in NBA history. "Highlight-show moves" were very much a part of his career and ESPN is still happy to broadcast them.

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