LeBron's no match for the early '90s

LeBron James is great, but could he handle the physical play of the old-school NBA? (US Presswire)

The two teams duking it out in the NBA Finals offer a stark contrast.

The Miami Heat are a product of the NBA's new normal. I like to call it the "Super Friends Era"—a bunch of star players who were already friends and decided to play together.

The San Antonio Spurs are a throwback to old-school basketball. They are a team that consists of European stars and American players who played college basketball for at least three years. Their current core of star players has won four NBA championships.

As I've watched the NBA playoffs in recent years, I've always wondered why I wasn't really into the NBA like I used to be. Then it hit me. It seems like everyone is friends with each other. It seems like today's players are afraid to hurt each other's feelings.

I miss the old rivalries. Lakers vs. Celtics, Knicks vs. Heat and the rivalries the Bulls had with the Pistons and Knicks. Those players wanted to kill each other. These days, players don't have a killer instinct. Back then, you never worried about the desire of Michael Jordan, Larry Bird or Magic Johnson. In this year's NBA Finals, LeBron James' play has been up and down. You often wonder when he is going to take over a game and put it out of reach.

Can you imagine the fits James and Kevin Durant would have if they played in the early '90s? The physical play, especially in the playoffs, would have left them battered and bruised.

I remember earlier this season when Kevin Garnett refused to shake hands with former teammate Ray Allen because he signed with the rival Heat. Garnett was chastised for being abrasive. But that behavior was commonplace in the NBA I grew up watching. The players back then operated under a team-first mentality. If you weren't a part of that team, you were the enemy.

Even though today's groups of NBA players are more athletic than ever, it's still not the same. I'm aware that the game has to evolve, but what about the spirit of competition? It's not the NBA I grew up with.

Evan F. Moore is a RedEye special contributor. @evanfmoore

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