Words by Phlip
If I were exercising any level of foresight on this, I would have written this post first, or at least immediately after deciding to make a series of it.
I say that only because the league has so few centers worth mentioning these days. Look at the ones that made this year’s All-Star game:
• Dwight Howard
• Andrew Bynum
• Marc Gasol
• Roy Hibbert
Consider the fact that Gasol is not even the best player in his own family, and I cannot HONESTLY say that I know what Roy Hibbert’s strong points are by way of anything other than the internet. This saddens me.
It’s not for nothing, either. Centers like Andrew Bogut, the (now-defunct) Yao Ming and (next-defunct) Greg Oden were to be the next big things as classic back-to-the-basket centers in the league, but these days when the “best center” conversation commences, the ONLY two names that come up are Bynum and Howard, and not for nothing either.
Around the league, the still not dead Spurs unexplainably employ a 6’7” Center but a 7’1” Power Forward and teams like the Wizards and Clippers, for examples, are starting hyper-athletic centers who seem to only be there for their size in JaVale McGee and DeAndre Jordan. Throughout the rest of the league, the centers of our fathers’ league in Bill Russell, Wilt, Kareem and Robert Parrish; and of our own in Hakeem, Shaq, David Robinson and Patrick Ewing are gone, and the Lopez Twins, Andersen Varejao (the trio perhaps representative of the Terwilliger family in the NBA) are splitting minutes with the likes of Johan Petro, Marcin Gortat and Semih Erden, respectively. Right, I heard you ALL ask yourself “who?” at the mention of those names.
Also around the league, the Bulls are starting a sized-for-Power Forward Joakim Noah who is effective at Center because of his energy, the Celtics are employing a San Antonio approach with KG at Center most nights but refusing to be called one and most other teams content to start either the biggest Power Forward they can or employing someone who is clearly on their way to retirement. To that ends hilariously enough; in lieu of a Greg Oden (who has less effective knees than my 7-month-old daughter), Marcus Camby starts in front of Kurt Thomas in Portland. Denver alternately starts a Brazilian who goes by one name, or a guy whose name is a verb for being viciously dunked on, and their first backup is a guy who sat out two years for pissing hot for meth on a drug test.
If only Shaquille had remained committed to conditioning, he could STILL be a dominant Center in the NBA despite turning 40 on Tuesday. Hakeem Olajuwon is the go-to for players of all sizes to be coached up on their post games, he seems to have taken 1-3 into his home in Houston for each of the last three summers to do so. One can do that when they’re not specifically tied down by a specific team. In so much, I would also be willing to bet that HE could come in and make some noise, even at his age. I would say the same for David Robinson too, who appears to be staying in shape quite nicely as well.
If Point Guards and Power Forwards are ubiquitous in the league nowadays while Small Forwards are simply well stocked and Shooting Guards are becoming a lost art then we can go ahead and begin mourning the death of the NBA Center as we knew it.
I would end this post with a eulogy, but like with any of these as discussed, the position will make a natural return sometime in the not-too-distant future, they always do.