This could get complicated and take a while, so I’ll just make a list of what we know.
1) Players in today’s NBA definitely benefit from strength, whether it’s playing through contact, going for a rebound in the scrum, establishing position, scrapping for loose balls or tie ups, fighting through screens, or absorbing the near-constant hits that take place.
2) Players in today’s NBA definitely benefit from stamina and endurance, whether it’s getting more burn in a 48 minute contest, playing more games of an 82-game season that includes another 8 preseason contests and up to 28 more in the post-season, being able to play well in crunch time of a tight contest, trying to extend their careers, or performing at top condition on the second night of back-to-backs (most teams have about 20 of these in a season).
3) Players in today’s NBA definitely benefit if they can recover from injuries quickly, whether it’s just the standard bumps and bruises they get each game, major things like torn ligaments, or the in betweens like sprains and strains we hear about pretty much every day.
3b) Players in today’s NBA seem to be able to recover from every type of injury much faster than normal people.
4) PED’s (performance-enhancing drugs) allow all of the above benefits.
5) Pretty much every other sport has had a well-known problem with PED’s in the last 15 years. This includes cycling, which requires far less brute strength for contact purposes than basketball. Even chess has tried to get serious about drug testing since PED’s could help a player concentrate longer, something that would also benefit a basketball player.
6) NBA players Rashard Lewis, a former All-Star, and O.J. Mayo, someone with all the natural gifts you could want in a player, have both been suspended in the last two years for using PED’s. Despite all of the national attention given to this subject, countless team trainers/doctors/dieticians at their disposal, and a league supposedly invested in preventing the use of PED’s, both players ended up using them, and both supposedly didn’t know they were taking them. Lewis was suspended in August, 2009, just two months after leading the NBA in post-season minutes played.
6b) Lewis’ career took a turn for the drastically worse from that point forward.
7) Some high-profile athletes in the other sports that have gotten hit with PED concerns supposedly worked with shady doctors to obtain synthetically created PED’s that currently can’t be tested for. It is pretty much a given at this point that famous athletes with enough money and reason not to get caught are able to find the right people to make PED's that elude tests. Think Barry Bonds.
8) Players today certainly look considerably bigger, stronger, and more cut than those from even just 20 years ago.
9) Players today certainly recover from a multitude of injuries faster than those from even just 20 years ago.
10) Plenty of players today are doing well much later into their careers than their counterparts from the past.
11) To what seems like a fairly straightforward question from ESPN the Magazine (“If 1 equals ‘What are PEDs’? and 10 equals ‘Everybody’s Juicing’…How big of an issue is illegal enhancing in your sport?”), Derrick Rose gave the answer, “Seven. It’s huge, and I think we need a level playing field, where nobody has that advantage over the next person.”
12) A person close to Rose defended this answer by saying Rose thought he was being asked "How big of a problem would it be if steroid use were rampant in the NBA?”. This makes no sense, especially since Rose later came out and said “I do not recall making the statement nor do I recall the question being asked,” which doesn’t fit with the Bulls’ official release shortly after his initial answer that stated the question was phrased differently.
13) Dwyane Wade was asked about the story on Sunday, and some of his less-than-convincing comments included “I just don’t think there is [a steroid problem in the NBA]” and “It’s nothing that I think takes place.” Imagine a teenager giving a lukewarm answer like that to a question about a party when there are empty beer cans and a broken vase laid out behind him. He wouldn’t sound wholly committed to his statement, and neither does Wade in a league of bulging biceps and quick recoveries from injuries.
You can make your own conclusions about all of this, but it's hard to swallow the league's "nothing to see here" attitude when we know this is a problem in every other sport, and basketball players continue to resemble He-Man action figures more and more. Thanks Mr. Rose for finally giving this issue a more substantial reason to be discussed; it's been a long time coming.