FanPost

What happened to true centers?

I found a nice a write-up http://www.cbssports.com/nba/story/14126248/big-shamrocks-big-statement-days-of-dominant-bigs-done from Ken Berger that takes a glimpse at Shaq's view of the how the dominant big man has disappeared from the modern  NBA. One of the highlights of the article is how Shaq includes Rik Smits' name into the dominant big man discussion during Shaq's heyday. You can always appreciate a little Pacers' love.

On the surface, I agree with the premise that the modern NBA big man is certainly more jump-shot heavy and back-to-the-basket light compared to Shaq's 90's era peers. Exhibit A for Pacers' fans of this new era big man is Roy Hibbert. Hibs, at 7'2 255 lbs is clearly more comfortable facing up and letting it fly from 15-20 feet out than pounding down low.   

But what Shaq conveniently forgot to mention is that while most of the dominant centers of his era (Ewing, Olajuwon, Robinson, Smits (really?),etc.) did the majority of their damage with their backs to the basket, they also were all versatile enough to step out and hit that 10-15 footer. This "European" element of their game made each of them practically unguardable, and is probably a big reason why Shaq never won a ring while they were in their prime. The only dominant center of that era who couldn't step out and shoot it was Shaq. And according to Shaq's criteria of dominant big man, that means Shaq is essentially saying without actually saying it that he was the only dominant big man of that era because he was the only one who didn't have any "Euorpean" elements to his game. That would be false, Shaq.

Anyway, the question posed by the article is an interesting one: Is the dominant, back-to-the-basket big man gone forever from the NBA? And if so, is that a good or a bad thing? I lean towards good. Shaq was undoubtedly an unstoppable force in the post during his prime, but I actually enjoy watching seven footers showcase a bevy of skills (post up, step out, pass, handle, etc.) rather than just pounding it down low for 15 seconds and heaving it up over their shoulder. I'm sure I'm in the minority on this one based on the wins accumulated by the old, dominant big man. What say ye?          

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