It was not very long ago that a guy could be 6’3” or 6‘4”and be a legitimate SG / SF in the NBA. (I’m still not sure what the difference is between a SG and SF – although I give props to TigerHeel for trying to explain it in a comment to my posting – but that’s besides the point here.) Joe Dumars started on a championship team. He was 6’3”. Danny Ainge did, too. He was 6’4”. Byron Scott, also. He was 6’4”. Jeff Hornacek and Sidney Moncrief were All-Stars. They were both 6’4”.
Today, the guys who excel at SG / SF are generally taller. Kobe is 6’6”. So is Vince Carter. And Andre Iguodala. And Brandon Roy. And Manu Ginobili. Joe Johnson is 6’7”. Sure, there are exceptions, like Dwyane Wade (6’4”) and Ben Gordon (6’3”). But, in general, it seems like the quality perimeter players have grown about 2 inches in the past 20 years.
I don’t understand why. One possible explanation is that the general population is getting a bit taller on average. Lemme tell ya’… that ain’t happening.
See, when I’m not hacking away at my keyboard typing crazy ramblings about basketball, I’m a lawyer. As a lawyer, I have often, over the last few years, found myself in places with lots of lawyers, like courtrooms and law school classrooms. I promise you, I never once looked around one of those rooms, and thought “Wow, everyone here is 6’2”. I bet that this group of lawyers is about 2 or 3 inches taller than a similar group of lawyers would have been 20 years ago.”
Take it from me, if you’re ever in a courtroom, you’re not going to find yourself thinking “Geez, these people are TALL!!!” Wide, maybe. Tall, not so much.
So, if the general population isn’t getting taller, then why are perimeter players?
Another possible answer is that there are simply more people than there used to be, so there is a larger pool of people to draw NBA talent from. Thus, while 6’6” people might not represent a greater percentage of the population than they used to, there are more 6’6” people around, and, therefore, more 6’6” people who can play shooting guard at an NBA level.
That kind of makes sense, but here’s the thing… the guys who play other positions in the NBA aren’t really getting taller. Consider point guards: Chris Paul is 6’0”. Steve Nash is 6’3”. Jameer Nelson – an All-Star last year – is 6’0”. Jonny Flynn, a hotshot rookie, is also 6’0”.
In fact, the centers in the league seem to be shrinking. We used to have guys like Robinson, Olajuwon, Ewing, Mourning, and Mutombo. They were all big and strong (not to mention that they were better than just about all of the centers in the league right now). Even the mediocre guys were huge. Mark Eaton was 7’4”, and 290 pounds. Look at the dude (those “wristbands” are actually washcloths taped around his wrists). There was a dude named Chocolate Thunder, who SHATTERED A BACKBOARD, and a dude name TREE Rollins. Get it? TREE Rollins. And I haven’t even mentioned Bill Laimbeer.
Now, even with all the advancements in weight training over the last 20 years, this guy is a quality center on a team that is 8-2. This guy has been a starting center on a playoff team. Here he is “protecting the paint,” and here he is trying to knock his opponents out of the way as he pursues a loose ball – just like Bill Laimbeer used to. (Remember, he’s the one in the white uniform.) David Lee, who is 6’9”, is the starting center, and best player, on, um, the Knicks.
I don’t understand. The point guards pretty much stay the same size. The centers either stay the same, or shrink. The perimeter guys, though… they grow 2 or 3 inches. Why?