Former Duke Blue Devil Carlos Boozer talks here about the demise of the traditional back-to-the-basket, sticks-to-the-post center.
He’s right of course. Basketball has evolved to what we’re calling positionless which is an imperfect name. It’s more like basketball has evolved to where you have to be highly athletic and have reasonably well rounded skills.
There are limitations though. If you’re 7-4, you might bring the ball up, but it’s unlikely that you’d do it consistently simply because smaller players will steal you blind.
And you might be able to penetrate consistently as a smaller player but you’ll always be at a disadvantage inside.
And there’s another aspect that people haven’t really considered, and that’s this: positionless basketball has arrived at a time when there are not really any dominant big men in the game. Even so, when promising DeAndre Ayton entered the draft, there was no question who the first pick would be.
It’s not like there haven’t been great athletic centers in the past. Consider Hakeem Olajuwon, Nate Thurmond, Bill Russell, Ralph Sampson or Wilt Chamberlain. Do you think anyone would worry about a young Shaquille O’Neal not having an outside shot? Or that they would turn down the supremely skilled Bill Walton in his prime? What about David Robinson or Tim Duncan?
The truth is that any of those guys would be dominant players in today’s NBA. Watch some old film of Bill Russell flying up and down the court and focus on his athletic ability then ask yourself: could a guy like that, in the modern game, with modern training and equipment, thrive?
Any of them could. And in today’s game, who could possibly stop them?
As soon as the next great big man shows up, the hunt to counter him will take off and the focus of the game will change once again.