Guest Blogger: David Mitchell
By most standards, I am tall. Some would call me very tall. At 6 feet 3 inches, I do not have to look up very often in order to look people in the eye. When I do have to look up, I always think that the object of my gaze must have played basketball somewhere. High school? College? Europe. The NBA? Those guys are not just tall. They are freakishly tall. Yes, I have conveniently determined that the dividing line for freakish height is established as anyone taller than me.
Basketball is a sport that generally favors those freakishly tall fellows. Even at my height, if I were to try to take a jump shot in front of Dwight Howard, assuming of course that I could jump, which I can’t, Dwight would casually raise his mighty arms and swat the ball out of the air. In all likelihood the ball would come crashing down out of the sky, hit me in the head and knock me to the floor. Absent the use of a large tranquilizer gun, I would never be able to score on Dwight. He is just too big.
The thing that the NBA forgets, however, is that height is not a skill. It is an inherited characteristic that rewards the freakishly tall with greater opportunities to play basketball. That is not to say that NBA players are not also skilled and athletic. Rather, it merely points out the obvious. When comparing two equally skilled basketball players, the taller player will usually win out.
That makes players who are not tall all the more remarkable. Muggsy Bogues and Spud Webb were exciting players and they contributed to their teams. Even though I am a foot taller than they are, even in my prime I probably could not have scored against them in a game of one on one and they would have blown past me every time they drove to the hoop. But they are the exceptions.
There are lots of talented basketball players who have been put out of the sport, excluding recreational leagues of course, because of their height. This means that the NBA is missing an opportunity. Basketball is a game of scale. When Lebron slams the ball through the hoop, it is impressive. Would it be any less impressive if he were a foot shorter and the rim was also a foot closer to the ground? I don’t think so.
If the NBA were to create a new league that played during the current NBA off season but which was tailored to shorter players (perhaps no more than 6’3” or 6’4”, it could create greater interest in basketball by making it possible for almost any guy to make it as a pro, as long as they put in the time and had the requisite ability. In theory, that would also allow shorter players to relate to the game on a more fundamental level and would thus drive greater sales.
What do you think? Does size really matter or is it the skill of the player that drives you to watch the game? Would you watch skilled ballers who were not physically larger than everyone else? Should there be a league for the skilled players of average height? Let us know!
*Images taken from: http://www.toptenz.net/