5 is Alive: The Big Man is Back in Basketball

Basketball is big. The players are big. Often the biggest of the big are the stars of the game.

We’ve seen some of the biggest personalities set up shop in the post. George Mikan, the original #99, was the first true star at the pivot position. Since then we’ve seen big men dominate the game in every decade. All warriors and Gods from 10 feet in.

  • Wilt
  • The greatest winner ever, Bill Russell.
  • Kareem
  • Moses
  • Ewing
  • Shaq
  • Dream
  • The Admiral

Coming into the 21st century, the 5 spot was what you built your team around. It was the strategy in the draft - - get that franchise center! As they say, you can’t teach height.

But then, something happened. The bigs, well, their role became smaller. Their roles were slowly reduced. The game became quicker, and the value of the 3-ball started to devalue the “throw-it-in-the-post” philosophy. For a stretch in the late 2000s and early in this decade, it felt like the league was heading to an under 7 feet style league. Yes, it would be up-tempo and lots of outside shooting, but there is something missing about the game when a quality 7 footer isn’t rumbling up and down the court.

In 2012, the NBA All-Star committee (if that exists) decided that having a spot dedicated to the Center position was a waste. In previous years, players like Jamaal Magloire  and Roy Hibbert were getting free trips to the annual extravaganza. The league was loaded with incredible forwards, and some of them were being left out because just centers had to be there.

Well, I’m happy to say, the Big Man is back in basketball!

Look at what we have coming in the NBA. It’s a plethora of riches. It’s a different big than before, but still an incredible set of players. The majority of these players are not the back-to-the-basket behemoths of before; hook shots and drop steps have been replaced by dribble drives and step back treys. And it’s scary how young these players are!

  • The Brow
  • Cousins
  • KAT
  • Drummond
  • DeAndre
  • Gasol (The Marc one)
  • Whiteside.

Cousins has made the Kings watchable; he can hit from deep, dish the rock and dominate down low. Karl Anthony-Towns looks like he is going to dominate the game for 15 years with his incredibly mature set of skills in such a young body. The Brow, if he can stay healthy for more than 60 games a year, is a freak on both ends of the floor, and for fun, adding shooting 3 pointers to his repertoire. The other names on the list are stuffing stats across the scoresheet.

It’ll be a while, or never, before we see someone do the sweet shimy and Dream shake, or a backboard being torn down by Shaq 2.0. And for a 5’8″ guy like me who still loves to shoot skyhooks in his driveway, that makes me shed a tear.

But, the big is back in the NBA! The league is better off for it.

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