They were the dominant species for a long time before coming close to extinction in recent years. But the « giants » over 2m10 seem to have found a way to adapt to the big world of the NBA. With Victor Wembanyama as a new standard, whose success or not in the big league should make it possible to validate this new phase of evolution already glimpsed for a few years now but which promises to be the new revolution in the NBA in the coming seasons.
For years, however, the greats imposed their law in a completely different way. Thanks to their size, their power and obviously their talents, they dominated the NBA by establishing themselves in the racket as pivots. From Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Shaquille O’Neal via Wilt Chamberlain or Bill Walton, examples of dominating pivots in the low post are legion. But Steve Kerr’s Golden State Warriors changed the game. In the wake of Steph Curry, the game became more focused on three-point shooting. « Between my arrival in the League and now, the evolution of the game is crazy. If you can’t shoot three points today, you can’t play anymorer », summed up Julius Randle in Paul George’s podcast. And faced with the « small ball », the big ones seem to be succeeding in reinventing themselves.
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Durant « changed the way 2.10m players can and should play »
A player over 2.10m is no longer content to stay under the panels to impose his height. More and more « giants » show an assumed desire to play away from the circle and to develop other ways of influencing the game. Recent examples are already not lacking and demonstrate the benefits of this adaptation. From the height of his 2.11m, Nikola Jokić, the new boss of the League, is anything but a traditional pivot. Shooting, distributing the game… the Serb knows how to do everything on slats brilliantly. His « best enemy » Joel Embiid (2.13m) is also part of these new generation pivots while Giannis Antetokounmpo (2.11m) has also participated in changing mentalities on the use of a player over 2, 10m just like Kevin Durant.
KD is perhaps the best symbol of this evolution. In 2016, he admitted to lying about his height for years. During his first years in the NBA, he said he was 205 centimeters under the fathom, almost five centimeters less than his real height. The reason ? He was afraid of not being considered a winger and of not being able to play in the position he enjoys and where his shot is taking its toll. Today, however, this would no longer be a question. Players over 2.10m are no longer cataloged and limited in their approach to the game. And Kevin Durant has a lot to do with it. « evolution is crazy« , recognized Nicolas Batum recently on Twitter. « Steph (Editor’s note: Curry) changed the game with the outside shot, but KD changed the way 2.10m players can and should play, and it may be the biggest evolution in the last 10 years. »
Kevin Durant, Phoenix Suns 2022-23
Credit: Getty Images
These children are no longer locked in boxes
Freed from stereotypes, Kristaps Porziņģis (2.21m), Lauri Markkanen (2.13m) or Aleksej Pokusevski (2.13m) took the Durant wave. And this is only the beginning for an NBA which has regularly seen its game or the profile of its players evolve over its history in the wake of its iconic stars. « Players arrive in the League bigger and bigger, but with the ability to shoot, handle the ball, pick and roll. They are getting taller and their skill development is dazzling.“, noted in The Athletic in February Jayson Tatum (Boston).
The reasons for this change are manifold. New training methods have a lot to do with it. Today, a 2m10 player is often better muscled and above all more slender than years ago. He can then move better and use his body. But it was the change in mentality that really revolutionized everything. « These children are no longer locked in boxes« , explains in The Score Tim Martin, personal coach who took care of Trae Young for example but also of Victor Wembanyama. « It’s no longer just ‘Hey big guy, get under the circle.’ (…) It revolutionized the game. »
Aware of the potential of these profiles, the NBA has obviously taken the fold and revels in it. « To cover more ground, you need more athletic and taller players, and the skill level has increased in our league, so you need more size« , summarizes Kevin Durant. Drafted in first position and eagerly awaited for months now by the entire League, Victor Wembanyama obviously embodies this transformation. And his success will be closely scrutinized by the entire basketball planet. Even if the revolution is already in progress. walks and that other talents with these dimensions are already panicking the specialists. « What’s going on with all those guys over 7’13?!?! By 2030, being 2m03m will be considered too small », had fun Nicolas Batum this week by discovering a new phenomenon before announcing the color. « The new era will be crazy. »
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