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Nostalgia and The “Disappearance” Of The Big Man

By Michael Price

Ahhhhh the NBA in 2019

James Harden iso’ing 35 times a game, averaging 34 points with 9 assists to offset his decent amount of 5.6(!) turnovers. Steph Curry, the only player in NBA history to chuck double digit 3’s a game and connect on 40%+ of them. Is LeBron even a forward? Or just a point guard trapped in a gigantic body. Follow-up question: what the hell is Giannis??

It seems as if every player today is a point guard, whether they stand 6’2″ or 7’2″. And though I love Inside The NBA, I can’t help but cringe every time they set up Shaq to rant about how there’s no big men in the league anymore. We all know by now, the only big men he respects are the ones who don’t leave the paint, and instead focus on rebounding and drop-steps.

But my question is: is a big man doing more things on the court so bad for the game?

The NBA is soft, or so the pediatricians who played in the 80’s say. Gone are the days where you could stiff arm a guy coming down the lane (thanks Jordan), or play a football-basketball hybrid with riveting final scores in the 80’s. The big men are largely to blame for this, but so are we as fans. Nostalgia is the worst kind of drug in sports. It can make a person start to rationalize why Bill Laimbeer could start on any team in today’s league, or keep someone believing that Derrick Rose is a lock for the Hall (yea, I’m not letting go of that one).

Nostalgia also serves its purpose when it clouds our vision and judgement on what we believe a basketball player should be. Russell Westbrook isn’t a point guard. He shoots too much. Same with Curry.

But what about how they both bring the ball up the court and act as the primary playma-

Shut up, no one asked you. Gimme Mark Price.

Karl-Anthony Towns is soft. He’s not a center, he’s a weak wing player masquerading as a power forward because he’s too tall to guard 3’s. Kristaps Porzingis is soft. How is he 7’3″ only grabbing 6 boards a game?? Joel Embiid is nice but he can’t stay healthy. How can you build around that??

If one is consistently thinking like this, they miss the bigger picture. Never mind that Towns is averaging 28/16/4 with 3 blocks over his last 9, or Porzingis is the only player ever to average 1.5 threes with 2 blocks. Forget about Joel Embiid playing in 41 of his teams 42 games this season, with no lower body problems in his last 2 seasons. You forget about all of it.

So here’s my challenge: Focus less on the past, and start to value what these unicorn big men are bringing to the game. The 3 pointer is fun, it’s not a detriment or disgrace to the game. Giannis dribbling up the court at 7 feet tall is exciting, it’s not a weird phase the NBA is going through. It’s merely an improvement; now imagine trying to read this off of a Motorola RAZR.

Change is good.

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