On the Waning Importance of Basketball’s True Centers

July 31st, 2012 by Rob Mahoney Leave a reply »
In the early 2000s, Shaquille O'Neal and Tim Duncan ruled the league in the same way that fantastically productive big men always had. Championships were earned with drop-steps and power moves, and foolishly, fans and analysts expected that to remain constant. A decade hasn't gone by without some radical basketball advancement or another, and yet based on precedent alone, we expected the value of the traditional, back-to-the-basket center to be static.

It was a silly notion to begin with; the game of basketball—much more so than any other major sport—is at the mercy of its own evolution. It's a sport that's practically due for periodic overhauls, as the basic tenets remain the same but the metagame changes drastically based on specific cues. They can be as drastic as the introduction of the three-point line or as unexpected as Tom Thibodeau's impromptu revolution of NBA defenses, but regardless, the NBA game is one of change.

And thus, it should surprise no one that when Duncan retires, the majesty of the conventional center will more or less die with him. Even Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum are decidedly different beasts, and though many mourn the ...

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