Is this the Golden Age of the NBA?

According to the media, announcers, talking heads and most fans there is a lot of history playing in the NBA right now.  Tim Duncan is universally announced as the best power forward ever, and Kevin Garnett is right there with him.  Kobe Bryant (whether true or not) has been called "the best basketball player on the planet" for years now, and is widely accepted as the best shooting guard without the initials MJ in NBA history...and Dwyane Wade is waiting in the weeds to join the party.  NBA statisticians everywhere are saying that Chris Paul is routinely turning in point guard performances whose only historical competition is Magic Johnson, and there are those that believe that Deron Williams is just as good if not better than he is.  LeBron James at age 24 has already reached the level of prime Larry Bird...and there are some that believe that Kevin Durant is already being overlooked as a historic talent at the same position.  And though his career is in its twighlight, Shaquille O'Neal is spoken of in the same breath with names like Kareem, Wilt, and Russell at the very top of the NBA centers pantheon...with Dwight Howard already challenging him for the Superman title.

If taken as gospel, this would tell us that arguably the best NBA players of all-time at their respective positions are all playing in the league at the same time.  NBC analyst Mark Jackson opined on the air last week that five of the top 15 players of all time are all playing this season (Bryant/LeBron/Shaq/Duncan/Wade), and this isn't even including Paul (who is for all intents-and-purposes as accomplished as Wade) or Garnett (who is dramatically more accomplished than both Wade and LeBron).  And none of this has mentioned players like Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, and Allen Iverson who have combined for four MVP awards this decade.

So the question is: is this just over-the-top hype?  A case of forgetting the past because of the newness of the present?  Because I think that if you asked most of the aged 30 - 50 NBA public, they would tell you that the 80s was the Golden Age of the NBA.  And if you asked most people older than that, they'd regale you with tales of Wilt and Russell and how the 60s was the REAL Golden Age.  Every generation is likely to think that theirs is the best, and I understand that.  But if I can honestly put a 12-man team together that is built up of the All-time greatest performers in three of the five positions, and round that out with top-5 All-time players at every position...wouldn't that suggest that the 00s would have to trump any of the previous generations?

So what do you think?  Is it just another case of forgetting the past, sprinkled in with a healthy dose of media exposure on a level that is historically unprecedented to make the now seem like more than it is?    Or are the players in this generation really as good as they are made out to be, making this period arguably the best ever?


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