It seems as if it were just a few years ago that everyone was making such a big deal about how there are no traditional big men left in the NBA. How the NBA was evolving into this perimeter game with big men that can dribble, shoot 3-pointers and play 3 positions like Dirk Nowitzki. Yes, Dirk did expand the market and open up doors for other big men that are not necessarily power players such as Andrea Bargnani or Mehmet Okur, but all three of these players are a liability on defense. In fact, if the NBA would have never legalized the zone defense, Okur and Bargnani would probably have a hard time finding minutes. Dirk, on the other hand, would still play because he is so important offesively, but do you remember early in his career when everyone was talking about how horrible his defense was? After the NBA implemented the zone, Dirk shot up to elite status. One of my friends say Coach Don Nelson and his “small ball” actually deserves all of the credit. Most coaches would have never given Dirk the freedom that Nellie did, they would’ve put Nowitzki in the post and made him develope a back to the basket game or sit on the bench.
I , personally, never bought into this “big man extiction” theory, just look at the NBA champions from the last 10 years, either Tim Duncan or Shaquille O’neal has played in every finals series with the exception of last year which starred Kevin Garnett (and I believe Boston would’ve lost if Andrew Bynum was healthy). Only the Detroit Piston had no dominate big man, but they still had Ben & Rasheed Wallace. Ben Wallace is a 4 time defensive player of the year and Rasheed is a not too shabby defender himself with 20 and 10 potential. The formula had been proven time and time again throughout history from George Mikan, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabar to Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson and the aforementioned Shaq and Tim Duncan. The NBA Champions always have either a dominating big man (on both sides of the court) or Michael Jordan who managed to win 6 championships and never had a real center. Even though not all teams with big men can win championships, I can’t help but to think that New York has nothing but love for my man Patrick Ewing. He still had a very rich and rewarding career leading his Knicks deep into the playoffs almost every year. I was so happy to see him inducted into the Hall of Fame last year. I bet playing in New York is stressful and I think Ewing did a great job leading that team on and off of the court. I often hear that New Yorkers were disappointed that he never won a championship, but damn, he was playing against Jordan. My Pacers were also a handful in those days. Detroit and Cleveland…the East was a beast.
So, where does that leave us today? It leave us with a plethera of big, talented back-to-the-basket youngsters ready to dominate the NBA for at least the next decade. Of course you have your next basketball mega-star in Lebron James, and who can deny the talents of Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Dwayne Wade or rookie Derrick Rose. We already know that they are going to be around but their success also hinges on the talent around them. Just look at Wade’s career with Shaq vs Wade’s career without Shaq. Shaq was only a mere image of his old self but he still demanded just enough attention to allow Wade to roam free with only one defender. Can you say “impossible task”? Just imagine Lebron playing with Dwight Howard or Chris Bosh. He would probably be working on his 3rd ring this season. I actually believe he would already be a champion had Boozer never bailed on him a few years ago. Lebron says that in 2010, when his contract is over, he will go to a team in position to win “multiple titles”. I would think that that process of choosing a new team would have a lot to do with who’s in the middle. Right now there are plenty of big men to choose from, some already established and some that has the tools but are relatively new to the NBA and still must develope. For instance Yao Ming, Amare Stoudamire, Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, Greg Oden, Andrew Bynum…shall I continue? Ok fine, Al Horford, Nene, Andrew Bogut, Andris Biedrins, Brook and Robin Lopez etc. The “big man” is back and I love it. Stop shooting all of those 3-pointers and post somebody up, block somebody’s shot or dunk on somebody, anybody and shake the whole arena, that is what’s going to win championships and that is what we (the fans) want to see. As we say “in the Hood” play your position. Your future depends on it.