Ramp Up Those Tablets
I know, just another Wilt video to take the place of actual Shoals writing. I'm on vacation, motherfuckers, and think there's some food for thought here. You also might enjoy watching me get unusually deep on TSB, with a column to follow later.
Anyway, in a far-off context, I've been trying to work through the so-called death/evolution of the big man. It's funny, we've seen the pure point guard reconstituted after a period in the wilderness, albeit with some rough edges that come in handy. The big man narrative, though, is rather different. Look at Wilt. Impossibly tall and strong, but how skilled and fluid he is! Even Bill Russell—through today's lens, he's wiry, athletic playmaker who doesn't live off of low-post volume alone. Exaggerated, maybe, but it's worth noting that these pillars of the center community are, to some degree, in violation of the template of purity.
It's the same way that young Shaq's athleticism made him feel like a real breakthrough, even if the brute strength would ultimately become his calling card. Or how Hakeem's inside wizardry is anything but formulaic execution. You have to ask yourself, how much did Kevin Garnett really change the game? Is Dwight Howard actually as revolutionary as believed? It's less that there are no more big men, or today's tall dudes want to go in another direction, than that the great ones have always blurred these distinctions—just also while keeping one foot firmly planted in the camp of Mikan-esque tradition.
We haven't seen a radical break, or rise and fall of a bygone species. No, to break out an apt but ugly basketball analogy, the chance in the big man's style has been a skillful pivot that decided to say "fuck it" and move off both feet.