Center position still thriving in NBA
by Sam Amick, USA TODAY Sports
Bill Russell isn’t walking through that door. Ditto for Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon and — in honor of Rick Pitino’s infamous comment during his forgettable Boston Celtics days — Robert Parish.
Today’s NBA, to be clear, is still a ways from earning golden era status when it comes to the center position. But in the name of Dwight Howard, Joakim Noah, Roy Hibbert and the rest, can we please stop with this nonsense about the center position being dead and the basketball world being ruled by perimeter players?
This revelation comes courtesy of a recent conversation with Shaquille O’Neal, the newest minority owner of the Sacramento Kings and resident mentor to young big man DeMarcus Cousins. O’Neal’s goal, you see, is to get the 23-year-old Cousins to the top of this ever-growing list of talented centers in today’s game. As he explained this new personal mission, he shed light on his view of the modern-day center landscape.
“Some people say Dwight (Howard) is the best, and then some people follow up with Brook (Lopez), and then they’ll say Roy (Hibbert),” O’Neal told USA TODAY Sports. “(They) probably have DeMarcus (ranked) four. Some people say Brook is the best. All the stuff I’ve been reading, and I’ve been hearing, DeMarcus is always at that four.”
So naturally, I wanted to put that theory to the test. Is that, in fact, the generally agreed upon totem pole these days? It doesn’t appear to be the case. I asked six front-office executives, reached via text message and granted anonymity to inspire honesty and avoid tampering charges, to rank the best centers in the NBA. The results:
- Executive No. 1: Marc Gasol, Noah, Lopez, Hibbert, Howard, Omer Asik.
- Executive No. 2: Howard, Gasol, Noah, Hibbert, Cousins.
- Executive No. 3: Howard, Gasol, Hibbert, Noah, Andrew Bogut, Lopez, Chandler, Bosh, Horford
- Executive No. 4: Noah, Gasol, Hibbert, Anderson Varejao, Howard
- Executive No. 5: Howard, Gasol, Nikola Pekovic, Noah, Lopez
- Executive No. 6: Howard, Lopez, Gasol, Tim Duncan, Noah, Cousins, Jonas Valanciunas
I share this not to start a debate about which of the aforementioned players should be considered power forwards or even … [For more on NBA A to Z: Center position still thriving in league, click here.]