The End of an Era: Traditional NBA Big Men Become a Rare Sight

The post-Michael Jordan NBA has been dominated by the center position.

The Lakers won three straight championships on the back of Shaquille O’Neil. The Spurs, led by Tim Duncan, have captured four titles. Two years ago the Celtics won their first championship in decades, led by the defensive toughness of Kevin Garnett.

However, the Lakers broke the mold with two straight championships. Andrew Bynum gave the Lakers solid minutes after returning from his knee injury, but did not dominate. Pau Gasol played a great series, but most of his points came from high screen-and-rolls with Kobe Bryant, rarely from back-to-the-basket post moves.

The Lakers win was the result of stellar perimeter play by Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom. The Lakers represent a new trend in professional basketball, the fall of the dominant center and the rise of the perimeter-orientated power forward.

The question is why are things changing? When the formula has been proven, why do teams opt for jump-shooting big men instead of strong low-post players.

The globalization of the NBA has changed the make-up of many teams. Players like Dirk Nowitzki (7'0"), Andrea Bargnani (7'0") and even Yao Ming (7'6") are putting a new twist on the traditional center position.

Nowitzki has arguably the smoothest jump shot in the NBA. He feels more comfortable floating around the perimeter looking for an open three, or driving to the basket for a layup or mid-range shot.

Bargnani’s game is similar. He too is a seven-footer who is more comfortable driving the lane or shooting a three-pointer. Bargnani also has great foot speed for a player his size allowing him to guard quicker players.

Yao Ming plays more in the low post than the other two but still has a strong perimeter game. At 7'6", Yao is the tallest player in the NBA and the strongest aspect of his game is his jump-shooting.

He prefers the high pos...

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