The Center Position

If you haven’t taken a look at an NBA All-Star Ballot in recent years, I highly recommend that you do. It’s absolutely hilarious.

Roy Hibbert, standing at 7-2, is one of the last true centers in the NBA, and as a result he receive a hefty contract this summer.

As you flip through the little paper ballot (with the fun holes you get to poke out) or vote online, take a look at the candidates for the center position. In each conference, there is literally one deserving candidate within the category, and the rest are absolute scrubs. In the West, Tim Duncan is the obvious pick, with the next best pick being Nazr Mohammed… not even joking. This is what the center position has deteriorated to.

The depreciation in value of the true center is not something to cry about, though, old timers. Centers are on the way out because, simply put, the majority of centers are not that good. First of all, when you get to be above 7 feet tall, you simply lose all ability to move with any sense of grace or agility. It’s not your fault that you lumber around as increasingly athletic swingmen dance and prance around you; that’s just the way it is. For example, I love Roy Hibbert – he’s one of the true professionals left in the league and has a plethora of skills. But have you seen him run the court? He’s pigeon-toed and can only be compared to a Mack truck in his inability to stop and change directions. He has to put on the brakes about 40 feet in advance. As Nate Robinsons and Rajon Rondos sneak up from behind him and swipe the ball right out of his hands, I just wish I could get the poor some rear view mirrors for his massive blind spots. Centers’ ability to move through space safely and effectively is not their only inadequacy as of late, though. Second is the fact that most centers just don’t give a damn. They were forced to play ball starting in middle school because their peers were at eye level with their waists, and ever since they’ve been forced to traveled down Basketball Road, benevolently yet indifferently. I hate Andrew Bynum with a passion, mostly because he lacks passion. You think Greg Oden lives for basketball? Questionable. I’ll tell you right now, Fab Melo will do less than nothing in the NBA. He is just another kid who was peer-pressured into playing. He has no skill, or desire, to play basketball. I could keep listing aloof centers of Christmas-past if I wanted to – Eddy Curry, Kwame Brown, Darko Milicic – but I’ll spare myself the time and disappointment of remembering all the potential that has gone untapped.

For years, NBA coaches played centers simply because they were tall. But in recent years, the NBA front offices have received something of a wake up call. They’ve thought to themselves, “Why are we wasting an entire two or even three roster spots on clumsy, uninterested guys, when we could just opt for a smaller lineup and be about ten times more athletic that any other roster?” And so, we have Nazr Mohammend and Chris Kaman as legitimate All-Star candidates.

As a result of this death of the center, excuse me for having doubts about any team that picks a center in the NBA Draft. My theory is, let other teams take a risk on him, and if he turns out to be effective we’ll take a shot at him through free agency or a trade. Because when the Blazers reached for Meyers Leonard and the Bucks for John Henson at 11th and 14th in the draft, respectively, all I could think about was Eddy Curry’s rolls of fat that developed after my beloved Knicks handed him a massive contract in confidence that he would work hard. The NBA doesn’t need clumsy centers taking up valuable court space, just as I don’t need these tears of pity trickling down my face as I imagine where the Wizards could be right now had they selected Pau Gasol (or even Tyson Chandler) instead of Kwame Brown in 2001.


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