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Hakeem Olajuwon: ‘Today’s Big Men Are More Skilled As All-Around Than Ever Before’

Credit: USATSI

Credit: USATSI

Basketball is always evolving, and the game is incredibly different than it was 10, 20 or 30 years ago. The revolution of the 3-pointers has taken place in the NBA alongside the small ball style of play, which has actually benefited teams and fans for the things we get to see when the squads sacrifice height for speed and agility on the floor.

It’s normal to see former players criticizing the way the game is played nowadays, but Houston Rockets legend Hakeem Olajuwon has a different opinion on this subject. As a matter of fact, the Nigerian-American former player thinks the league has changed for the better, and small ball is a big example of that.

Back in 2016, Olajuwon wrote a piece for The Players’ Tribune where he explained how the league has changed, altering big men’s game, who just don’t stay in the key or just go to the low post.

He wrote:

“People sometimes ask me, 'Is the era of the dominant big man over?'"

“They wonder if small ball will make the NBA a shooting guard’s league. But if you only look at sharpshooters like Steph and Klay, you miss what’s going on. Those guys are special, but they’re not the norm.

“Small ball won’t eliminate big men, but it might eliminate our old ideas of positions. Everyone likes to compare eras, but it’s possible that today’s big men are more skilled as all-around players than ever before. Look at guys like Draymond Green and LaMarcus Aldridge in this year’s playoffs. I’m in awe of how they play like guards and centers at the same time.

“I would love today’s NBA. It’s like when I was a freshman in college and didn’t know what a center should act like — so I pretended I was a guard. I didn’t want to have a position at all.”

It’s exactly like he says. We have players today who can play in more than one position, like LeBron James or Giannis Antetokounmpo, as well as big men who aren’t afraid of putting the ball on the floor, like Anthony Davis or the aforementioned Draymond Green. If we talk about 3-pointers, players like Marc Gasol or Joel Embiid are big examples of that.

That’s when you see the evolution of the game and the league in general, which only gets better every season. Dominance at the paint is still important, but if you can have a variety of tools to score, your value in the league will increase considerably.