The Fallacy of NBA Centers

Heard this one on the radio this morning, so I thought it would be a reasonable time to bring it up again here. If only because some people seem to accept it as an unquestionable truth: Big men win championships in the NBA.

The problem is that the facts don’t back this up. Consider: . . .

— The starting centers on the most recent championship teams have been Andrew Bynum, Kendrick Perkins, Fabricio Oberto, Shaquille O’Neal, Nazr Mohammed and Ben Wallace. Aside from O’Neal — and maybe, someday in the distant future, Bynum — there’s not a Hall of Famer in the bunch. Those teams have had some great big men, such as Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan, but they haven’t been centers. You need an inside presence, but not necessarily a dominating center.

— The Finals MVPs during that time have been Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce, Tony Parker, Dwyane Wade, Tim Duncan, Chauncey Billups, and Tim Duncan. None of them are centers, and Duncan is the only big man. The guys who handle the ball are more valuable in modern basketball.

— Michael Jordan won six titles with Bill Cartwright and Luc Longley at center. You can dismiss this as the exception to the rule, except that there have been a lot of exceptions recently.

— The past nine league MVPs have been LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, Steve Nash, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Tim Duncan, and Allen Iverson. That’s nine years since Shaquille O’Neal was the last center to win the award. The runners-up in the voting the past four years have been Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Steve Nash, and LeBron James. Again, no centers since O’Neal finished second in 2005.

— All of this reflects a fundamental change in the nature of the game over the past couple decades. The most recent Final Four Most Outstanding Players: Wayne Ellington (Ty Lawson was robbed), Mario Chalmers, Corey Brewer, Joakim Noah, Sean May, Emeka Okafor, Carmelo Anthony, Juan Dixon, Shane Battier, Mateen Cleaves, Richard Hamilton, Jeff Sheppard, Miles Simon, Tony Delk, Ed O’Bannon, Corliss Williamson, Donald Williams, and Bobby Hurley. In the past 17 years, the only big men to win the award were Noah, May and Okafor, and only Okafor was really a true center.

That’s a lot of evidence to suggest that a dominating center isn’t the key to winning an NBA title, yet people still espouse this falsehood.

Please discuss among yourselves.

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