I was watching some footage of the 82′ Sixers playing the Boston Celtics in the playoffs and the game looked noticeably different compared to today. Players seemed slower, less fancy moves, more defense, less 3’s and obviously more passing. This got me thinking to compare some of the stats of games in the 80’s to the present day. What I found was pretty interesting. Here are the league leading teams and their totals for the year. Take into consideration this is just the highest total of that era and not the average, thus making these numbers meaningless.
So what’s the conclusion? It seems a bit counter intuitive that the addition of the 3 point line has led to less points being scored. However when a team is shooting 1800 more 3’s in a season and they make roughly 33% (in reality its 36% but for the example), they score 1800 points. With those extra 1800 possessions a team shooting twos will score roughly 1800 points (50% FG%). HOWEVER, the team shooting twos are more likely to get fouled whereas the team shooting 3’s almost never gets fouled. On 1800 possessions, you may get found 1 once every 7 possessions. This leads to getting fouled 257 times. This could be an additional 450 points? I think that may be some explanation why they scored more points 30 years ago. Anyone’s guess on how often they go to the line on a possession basis would be welcome.
Blocks, steals and rebounds are all down comparably in present form. This is just because of more possessions by each team. The game back then must have taken shots earlier in the possession or ran the fast break more often. I think this makes sense as to why points per game are higher and FG% is up too. Notice TO’s are way down which pretty much proves the less possessions. I think people preferred basketball back 30 years ago because it was more run and gun. I’m sure the game was more physical due to teams constantly attacking the rim. I think the talent was also a little more diverse. Meaning the better players were much better than some of the scrubs on the roster. This maybe added to the excitement of having a “star” on the team.
The only thing wrong with this analysis is that I could look at a year ahead or a year behind and the numbers could be completely skewed (I doubt it though). I still think its interesting to see how the game has evolved. The 3 point line is obviously the biggest change to the game. I think a fair answer to the question “what is the biggest change in basketball 30 years ago compared with today” is the 3 point line. After reading this post, now you can argue that with conviction. Comment if you enjoyed this.