NBA Finals: What We Learned About The State of Fitness in Today's Game

The NBA Favors Fitness Like Never Before

Last night I watched my first game of the 2016-17 NBA season, which just happened to be the last game of the 2016-17 NBA season. My oh my, has the league has really changed.

It was hard to tell whether I was watching a basketball game or a track meet. There was little emphasis on defense, but it seemed calculated that way so the players could conserve their energy for 48 minutes of run-and-gun offense.

The score at halftime was 71-60, which could be the final score of many college basketball games. Even by previous NBA standards that seems high; teams used to score between 45 and 55 points at the half on average. Of course, Game 4 of the NBA Finals saw the Cavs score 89 points at half, so I guess 71-60 is child’s play in comparison.

So even though the league has changed significantly—and not necessarily for the better in my book—there’s one thing that impressed me more than anything: fitness levels.

The Golden State Warriors seem to put up a shot within 10 seconds of every possession. That’s fast. It’s one thing to do that in spurts, but to do it consistently? That takes some out-of-this-world fitness.

Even the Cavs, who by the looks of it can’t compete on quite the Warriors’ level when it comes to raining three-pointers, were pushing the ball up and down the court with ferocity.

NBA players have always been some of the greatest pure athletes in professional sports, but they seem to be getting even fitter these days.

I remember watching games in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, when multiple Charles’s like Barkley and Oakley would lumber up and down the court with their big bodies. Massive beasts like Shaq dominated the league, even though they were among the slowest and worst pure shooters on court. My oh my has the game changed.

Big men aren’t utilized the way they used to be. Today’s big men must be able to make jump shots and play around the perimeter. There are few seven footers who can’t shoot three-pointers when called upon. And what’s more, they have to be fast and fit like never before.

Gone are the days of 300 pound monsters roaming the painted area. Today’s NBA requires seven footers to be lean and agile, resembling something closer to a world class sprinter than an NFL linebacker.

The game requires its players to morph into gazelles. It’s different, that’s for sure.

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