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The Holdovers Review
February 20, 2024

Why Are The ’90s The Greatest Basketball Era?

Some people may say the 2000s are the greatest era of basketball, some may say the ‘80s and others may say the 2010s. But in my eyes, it was without a doubt, the ‘90s. Not only because of the collection of talent in the sports world during that time period but also because of the influence the athletes of this decade had on future stars. 

This influence is both on and off the court or field. For example, I believe the most notable athlete from this decade is Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan changed the way basketball was played through the way players and people dressed. Michael Jordan single handedly brought Nike to the pinnacle of the shoe industry. Before Michael Jordan, the most popular shoes were Converses for NBA players and regular people. After he came into the league, everyone wanted a classic pair of red Jordan Ones. He even influenced players to start wearing long shorts in basketball games. Michael Jordan was also the first athlete that was truly universally recognized and marketable. This was most apparent in his “If I could be like Mike” commercials and the movie Space Jam.


On top of that, Michael Jordan proved that you don’t need an all NBA center to win. Jordan, along with Clyde Drexler, Reggie Miller, and Grant Hill paved the way for the dominance of the modern wing (small forward/ shooting guard) players. Now because of the aforementioned players, the best players from the ‘90s and on are all wings. A few examples include: Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, Dwayne Wade, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, Paul Pierce, Klay Thompson, Ray Allen, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard et. All of these players are already in the Hall of Fame, or will become Hall of Famers by the time they retire. 

Besides the type of players, the 1990s gave birth to some of the more contemporary playing styles. For example, John Stockton and Karl Malone were the first great pick roll duo. Almost 3 decades before, it was Harden and Capela, and almost two decades before, it was Nash and Stoudemire. The other notable pick and roll duos of that time were: Hall of Famer Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway of the Miami and Heat, and Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway of the Orlando Magic. The 1990s was also the first time where there was international NBA talent. With centers Hakeem Olajuwon (Nigeria) of the Houston Rockets and Dikembe Mutombo (Democratic Republic of Congo) making 20 all-star games between them and both being inducted into the Hall of Fame. The 1990s was also one of the greatest eras in terms of the talent pool. With close to 40 of the NBA’s all-time 100 players having played that decade.

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