Here's an argument: Shaq. That's a frame that's about as hard to coordinate as any, but the 19 year old version was much more at it's physical peak than the 26-28 year-old version.
I was at that game. It was one of the loudest games I can remember in Cameron.
But let's give Laettner a little credit. He was no old pro himself. In fact, unless my memory is failing me, Laettner did the same thing the next year to a TWENTY year old more experienced Shaq. This time on Shaq's home floor. I also recall a few less than sportsmanlike comments being hurled in Laettner's direction.
But Laettner just took him outside and abused him. Christian (and Ferry before him) were the prototype Duke big man with an outside game. Many do it now, but not back then.
"Enjoy every sandwich" -- Warren Zevon
Not to be a buzzkill, but any updates on Amile's decision process?
Peak physical form for top athletes is 26.1 years of age. Now can we all just agree that (Grant Hill's freshman-year dunk notwithstanding) Edouble was wrong and get back to Amile Jefferson?
Amile is already developing his legacy:
"With seven national titles and 20 Final Fours in the 64-team NCAA Tournament era, Duke and UNC have had more playoff success than any other CONFERENCE." - Al Featherston
“It’s so humbling. As much as I’m honored by it, the guys I’ve played with have been the big part of the success we’ve had. The coaches have been so good. We’ve had that all four years. I’ve been blessed to play with some great players in this tournament and they’ve helped me so much to achieve this. I’m honored by the guys I’ve played with.”
As for Shaq's athletic peak, it was probably during his years with the Magic.
I had and still have trouble taking seriously your assertion that 18-19 YOs are at peak physical performance. People used to say that decades ago, but modern training regimes have helped us better understand physiological development. I do recommend the article cited above by El diablo for a scholarly take on the problem.
Strength is far greater for older athletes. Coordination, especially a problem for lanky basketball players, seems to come in at different rates, but athletes are much more capable in the NBA than in college in skills and moves. In pure speed it may be close but with modern training techniques sprinters are competitive throughout their 20s. The old days, when Dave Sime set six world records in three weeks as a 19YO Duke sophomore, are long past.
Some of the advantages that we used to give to youth have been eclipsed by a better understanding of what is possible for older athletes. Much of what we have seen in recent years is because of the high salaries in many professional and quasi-professional sports. This gives athletes an incentive (and the ability) to train year-round. That wasn't the case in MLB and the NFL of my youth. Guys needed jobs in the off-season.
Now you do make a valid point, but a different one, about "wear and tear in the NBA." I have also heard that college recruiters are leery of football players from the cities, where their legs have been damaged by running on concrete and other hard surfaces. But "wear and tear" is a different argument from the age profile of peak physical performance.
And my reference to Grant Hill was not to say he was an exception to the rule of "peaking in the mid to late 20s," but to say he was a phenomenal athlete at age 18 and, while probably even better later (until injuries took their toll), he was in the top 1% of the top 1% of the top 1% of the population as a teenager.
In Baton Rouge, Duke won 77-67. During the closing minutes with the game on the line, Laettner took over and scored 12 of his 22 points. A special 2-3 matchup zone was designed to guard Laettner. In the closing minutes, Laettner hit two threes to give Duke the lead they never relinquished, leaving Shaq to ponder, "Who was guarding him?"
Shaq outplayed Laettner? Shaq 25 points, 12 rebs... Laettner 22 points, 10 rebs. I would call that a draw, particularly when you consider that Bobby Hurley, Duke's main assist man did not play because of a broken foot.