Here’s What Stan Van Gundy And The “Back In My Day” Guys Can’t Wrap Their Old Heads Around

Stan Van Gundy says players back in the day played more and got hurt less
(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Former NBA head coach and current TNT analyst Stan Van Gundy fired off a tweet on Tuesday that has NBA Twitter buzzing. Essentially, Van Gundy said that teams in the 1990s only had a trainer and a strength coach, whereas today teams have entire medical and performance staffs, but injuries and missed games are more prevalent today.

 

Is Stan Van Gundy right about today’s NBA players resting more, but getting injured more? 

First off, shame on Stan for firing off a tweet like that on a platform devoid of nuance like Twitter. This reeks of “back in my day” and all the tough guy, macho dogma that plagues sports.

My first question for Stan is, is that a fact? Does he have data that suggests players today are injured more and that missed games are up?

Let’s give Stan the benefit of the doubt and assume that it’s true. To say that “teams now have huge medical & ‘performance’ staffs and value rest over practice” while comparing the current situation to that of the ’90s and saying players practiced “more often and harder” ignores two simple facts.

Is Today’s NBA more physically taxing?

The game is different now than it was then and it’s more physically taxing.

These are two facts that people like Stan and the “back in my day” guys can’t wrap their heads around. The players in the NBA are bigger, stronger, faster and more skilled than they were in the 1990s. That’s evolution.

In the 1990s the game was played primarily below the free throw line with a lot of mauling and physical interior play.

Today the game stretches out beyond the three-point line, and you have weaponized players spread out all over the floor. Plus, the pace of play is so much faster.

Banging in the paint against Anthony Mason and Charles Oakley is certainly physically taxing. But so is guarding a cutter to the rim and racing out to contest a corner three. We need to broaden our definition of physically taxing.

Stan understands the concept of broadening definitions.

 

Today’s NBA players participate in many more games before entering the league

The other issue is players that enter the league now versus the 1990s already have way too many basketball miles on their bodies.

The increase in sports specialization at the youth level is a serious problem. Kids as young as 10 years old are playing five to six games a weekend. Repetitive wear and tear on the same muscles before they’re even fully developed.

One of the benefits of playing multiple sports at a young age, besides being fun, is cross training. By playing different sports you worked different muscles and instinctively learned how to apply athleticism in different ways.

Add all that in on a game that is extremely taxing at the NBA level and is played way too often to allow for proper rest and recovery.

Stan and others love to lionize the ’90s and players like Michael Jordan, who is on the short list for GOAT. But turn on a regular season game from the 1990s and watch a game from today and you see the difference.

Our ability to understand adapts and evolves over time. What might have been true 30 years ago, won’t necessarily still be true today.