Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Howard is the last of a dying breed

After 19 great seasons of dominance in the paint and unforgettable humor on and off the court, Shaquille O'Neal has finally called it quits. It’s sad to see of the best centers of the league hang up his jersey. Maybe even more depressing about the good-bye is that this may be the epilogue of true centers in the NBA. The era of the NBA big man has finally hit rock bottom.
Before messages get distorted through this fine print, I’m not saying that all the current big men in the league aren’t that good. Instead, I’m saying that the league has lost the art of having a true center. So what do I mean by true center? A true center according to the Sports Zone Gossip dictionary (this edition has not been published yet) is an individual that is able to create their own shot from post moves and be comfortable scoring consistently within eight feet of the basket. There’s only one name that fits these job requirements when browsing through the 32 NBA teams: Dwight Howard…and he’s still has a lot of more room for improvement.
The more this league changes to a guard-oriented and high-flying forward league, the less you will see the Wilts, Mikans, Russells, Ewings, Malones, Olajuwons, and Kareems. It’s rare now to see a center dominate the paint restlessly and demand the ball in the post possession after possession. A center’s job has now transitioned into protecting the paint on defense and taking up space inside the paint for offensive rebounding. In addition, three-pointers has provided a love hate relationship to the founding principles of this game. Too many times, players rely on outside shooting as if a force field is withholding them from passing that line. And if they do pass the line, it feels like they trespassed onto someone’s property, so they have to step back into the 3-point range which would be there safe zone. On the other hand, the three-point shot has also added a phenomenal new dimension to league and gives players a chance to showcase their talents better.
With flashy killer crossovers that lead to outside shooting and spectacular alley-oops, teams have faded away on the simple task of pounding the ball inside. Instead, constant isolations are ran by guards. As previously mentioned, the last person left to continue this legacy would be Howard. No disrespect to any other NBA centers, but there doesn’t seem to be anyone else in “Superman’s” class.
Some of the fault can be blamed on the coaches who surprisingly aren’t teaching these young men an easy art of the game. For example, why hasn’t anyone tried to master Kareem’s sky-hook? It may look awkward at first and be difficult to learn, but it can be unstoppable once attained. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the NBA all-time leading scorer. I guess common sense isn’t really that common. Though the coaches can be liable for not molding centers correctly, most of the blame is attributed to the player them self. Every center doesn’t have to be putting up big numbers in the points column, but it would be helpful if big men were able to be somewhat efficient at scoring. NBA centers have progressively become taller and faster as years have progressed. The reason why some of these gentlemen limit themselves to defense with so much potential is unfathomable. Ultimately, today’s big men including forwards are just not trained in the same manner as the former NBA great big men were.
For better or for worse, the NBA has changed. Flashy and freestyle guards run the show. No more “dream shake” or basic fundamental baby hook shot. These duties of the center position have drastically changed. One of the most vital players on the team has now slowly faded into being part of the “other guys.”

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