Posts Tagged ‘Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’

Everybody says you can’t teach size. A premium is put on an athletic big man whether he is completely raw or can flat out play. First picks in the NBA Draft are sometimes based simply off of size instead of skill. 26 Centers have been chosen with the First overall pick since 1947. ┬áSome would become future Hall of Famers: Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal. Others would be remembered for all the wrong reasons: Kwame Brown, Greg Oden, Michael Olowokandi. What went wrong?

This question takes us back to our initial statement, “you can’t teach size”. NBA teams must believe SURELY they can teach their newly acquired big men all of the necessary skills required to be a successful NBA center. What they forget is, they made the drastic mistake of already wasting the first overall pick and all the money that comes along with it on pure potential. What can you possibly get back on your investment from a guy that is now living large. Essentially, the team has taken away his drive to work hard and become the best possible player. Don’t expect a guy who is getting PAID to put in those extra hours in the off-season improving his post up game or mid-range shot.

Let’s take a closer look at the successful centers taken with the first overall pick. What is a common trend among these players? They are all polished veterans around the basket on both ends of the court. Is this a skill that was acquired during their time in the NBA, or was it fine tuned during their professional careers? Those players all spent at least a couple of years in college developing their skills and working at it everyday in order to earn the right of being selected first overall. On the other hand, Kwame Brown came straight out of high school and Oden spent one year at OSU before bolting to the NBA.

What is the incentive to stay in the NCAA after they complete their one year? A post-up game for one! Great post-up players are rare in today’s NBA and are always labeled as an “old school” guy. Roy Hibbert is always at the top of everybody’s list when we speak about those “old school” players. Roy spent four years at Georgetown, let me repeat that. He stayed at Georgetown for FOUR YEARS! What about his teammate David West, oh he happened to spend four years playing at Xavier. There is clearly a connection between players who stay around in the NCAA to work on things like their post-up game instead of going straight out of High School(when it was allowed) or playing the minimum of one year.

Let’s look at some of those #1 overall picks who came straight out of high school. Dwight Howard, a boy in a grown man’s body. He averaged 12/10 in his rookie year which is respectable, but just imagine his rookie year if he would have went and developed his game on the college level. LeBron James, clearly the best player in basketball, only recently developed a low post game following a collapse in the 2010 NBA Finals. More often than not, those players aren’t going to develop that low post skill set while they are in the NBA because it is too hard. LeBron is one player who was able to accomplish this because of his work ethic and drive.

The center position appears to be dying off in the NBA as traditional fours are being moved to the five spot and a stretch four is on the court to play “smallball”. The Heat have mastered small ball, but it has lead to other teams trying to match up instead of sticking with a traditional lineup. A team like the Pacers causes fits for Heat players because they don’t alter their lineup. They stay big and abuse players like Shane Battier on the boxes. Why doesn’t this motivate more teams to look for those “old school” players and run a traditional offense in the NBA?

The NBA’s love of smallball does not help the cause. They love the idea of a faster pace game with higher scores, thus higher entertainment value. However, growing up watching the Pistons vs anybody, Knicks/Pacers, Bulls/Pacers & Knicks I developed a love for a rugged game with tough defense. It is sad to see the center position become what it has in the NBA and players like Hibbert be under appreciated. Now I’m not blaming the players because what kid who is given an opportunity to make millions will turn it down and risk being injured. However, I do think the play in the NBA could benefit if they were to increase the amount of time required to play in the NCAA. A three-year minimum (like NCAA football) would not only increase the quality of play in the NCAA, the players would be entering the league with solid fundamentals and a well-rounded game. I don’t see why we don’t give college basketball players the same amount of time for their body to develop before entering the professional league. The NBA season is a grind! Anybody who has ever played basketball understands the wear and tear it has on your body and that’s without having to fight in the paint with 250 lb athletes.

Now the return on investment for the NBA is a cleaner game, along with mature athletes coming into the NBA instead of boys. Also, it would most likely calm down this increasing epidemic of threes being tossed up at an alarming rate which is definitely hurting the game of basketball. I’m not going to lie and say I’m not excited watching this rookie class in the NCAA and wondering what teams they will fall to next year. Each of their games are flawed though, and when you see the rankings and hear the analysis you’ll hear that scary word of “potential” be mentioned. Let’s just hope the NBA does something to improve the product that is being put on the court. Maybe it’s as simple as taking a page from the old school guys and staying in school. If not, the “Center” position is going to die.

-Randall “Stiltz”