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Larry Bird: Higher salaries in today’s NBA does not mean players are better than the past

Larry Bird is a three-time NBA champion, two-time NBA Finals MVP, three-time NBA Most Valuable Player, 12-time NBA All-Star and an NBA All-Star Game MVP (1982), to name a few of his accomplishments. To say he knows the game of basketball would be the ultimate understatement. The NBA legend recently sat down with ESPN.com and revealed his thoughts on the current state of the league.

Bird’s comments come at a time when many people are questioning the record high salaries being paid out through free agency. Bird’s highest annual salary came in 1992 when he earnt $7 million. By way of contrast, last week Mike Conley, who has never played in an All-Star Game or Conference Finals, struck a five-year deal with the Memphis Grizzlies for $153 million.

Despite the absurd discrepancies in pay, even when adjusted for inflation, Bird does not think today’s era is any less or more skilled then his. In May 2016, Bird told The New Yorker: that “you always think (your era) is the greatest era, but I’m not so sure anymore.”

When asked by ESPN why he believed that, his response was refreshingly centered:

“Because everybody that plays, no matter if it was ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, they think their era’s the best. Well, prove it to me. Like I said earlier, I think we have more stars than they do now. On every team, they had at least one, maybe two. I’m talking about Dominique Wilkins — you just go down the line. But in saying that, I don’t think our era’s any better than anyone else’s, when it comes right down to it.”

Generational comparisons are an old song. Players throughout the years have argued why their generation was quicker, tougher and better, from Oscar Robinson to Gary Payton.

Despite Bird’s comments, comparisons of the likes of LeBron and Malone, Jordan and Kobe, Curry and Miller… the list goes on and on, and it will go on for years to come. It is impossible to compare players at their peaks across generations, but that will not stop us all from doing it anyway.

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