Flashback: A tribute to NBA All-Star centers

October, 26, 2012
10/26/12
1:25
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With the NBA's elimination of the "center" position from All-Star ballots -- the league is going with "frontcourt" and "backcourt" as the only categories -- the February game might feature a few more deserving candidates roaming the hardwood.

On the other side, though, this could mark the end -- or at least the rarification -- of a certain type of All-Star: that old-school big who mans the 5 with aplomb, even if the numbers don't follow (and even if success lasts only a season or two).

So, Playbook's Flashback looks at some of our favorite choices from the past 25 years -- guys who would have to fight doubly hard to get into the lineup under these new rules.


Roy Hibbert (2012 All-Star)
Roy Hibbert with the Indiana PacersMichael Hickey/US Presswire
The 7-2 Indiana Pacer posted strong numbers (13.8 points, 9.6 rebounds before the break) for one of the East's best teams. But will he be pushed out by a smaller guy with bigger stats in the new order?


Marc Gasol (2012)
Marc Gasol with the Memphis GrizzliesAP Photo/Lance Murphey
The same goes for Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies. His average of 15 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks paint the portrait of a hardworking big man.


Chris Kaman (2010)
Chris Kaman with the Los Angeles ClippersJoe Murphy/NBAE/Getty Images
Kaman averaged 20.0 points and 8.9 rebounds for the Los Angeles Clippers before the 2010 game. Maybe someone like him still could sneak on?


Shaquille O'Neal, Suns edition (2009)
Shaquille O'Neal with the Phoenix SunsAP Photo/Matt York
Shaqtus/The Big Cactus had a fine season for Phoenix in 2008-09, averaging 17.8 points and 8.4 rebounds while leading the league in field goal percentage. But this was not the Shaq of 375 miles to the west.


Mehmet Okur (2007)
Mehmet Okur with the Utah JazzGlenn James/NBAE/Getty Images
An injury replacement in '07, Okur was the quintessential good player on a good team (18.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 39.3 percent from 3-point range for the eventual division-champ Utah Jazz).


Ben Wallace (2003-2006)
Ben Wallace with the Detroit PistonsAndrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
How to argue against Big Ben, a four-time Defensive Player of the Year? Perhaps fans and/or coaches would find a guy like him just as All-Star-worthy in the post-"center" world.


Zydrunas Ilgauskas (2003, 2005)
Yao Ming with the Houston Rockets and Zydrunas Ilgauskas with the Cleveland CavaliersDavid Liam Kyle/NBAE/Getty Images
The guy on the left would have made the All-Star team at any position, thanks to his massive fan base (and, ohbytheway, production). The guy on the right? He had some solid years in Cleveland, enough to make the grade in the pre- and post-LeBron James eras.


Brad Miller (2003, 2004)
Brad Miller at the All-Star Game in 2003Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE/Getty Images
The workmanlike Miller (eight seasons of at least 12.7 points and 7.8 rebounds) made it with two teams: the Pacers first, then the Sacramento Kings.


Jamaal Magloire (2004)
Jamaal Magloire at the All-Star Game in 2004Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
An early mention in any "he made the All-Star team?" discussion, this briefly but undeniably valuable New Orleans Hornet strangely had better numbers after the '04 game: 16.4 points and 11.9 rebounds vs. 12.1 and 9.4.


Dikembe Mutombo (1992, 1995-98, 2000-02)
Dikembe Mutumbo at the All-Star GameAndrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
See: Wallace, Ben. Across multiple teams, this guy was a game-changer on D (four defensive POYs, like Wallace), even if his points rarely ventured far above 10 per game. So should another Mutombo arrive, he might just make eight All-Star teams himself.


Vlade Divac (2001)
Vlade Divac with the Sacramento KingsRocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images
Known now for his flopping, Divac might well be known for his ability to produce similar numbers year after year (somewhere between 13.2 and 16.4 points, 9.1 and 11.4 rebounds, and 3.3 and 4.4 assists in 10 consecutive seasons). Yet just one of those seasons saw him replace O'Neal as an All-Star reserve while with Sacramento.


Rik Smits (1998)
Rik Smits with the Indiana PacersNathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
Like Divac, the Dunking Dutchman was consistent (a little more scoring, a little less rebounding while with the talented Pacers), and found his way to one All-Star Game as a reward.


Kevin Duckworth (1989, 1991)
Kevin Duckworth with the Portland Trail BlazersAndrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
The late Duckworth became a second-round steal by his second season, and was an All-Star by his third (averaging 18.1 points at his peak). His run of "very good" lasted just four years, but it coincided with the best Portland Trail Blazers run since the 1970s.


Mark Eaton (1989)
Mark Eaton with the Utah JazzMike Powell/Getty Images
Unlike that other guy in this photo, the 7-4 Eaton never averaged 10 points per game. But man, could he block -- 5.6 per game in his best season (1984-85). And so, with the John Stockton-Karl Malone Jazz rising in the West, Eaton rode the wave one sweet February a few years later.


James Donaldson (1988)
James Donaldson with the Dallas MavericksBrian Drake/NBAE/Getty Images
This big Briton -- by birth, anyway; he grew up in California -- averaged 10.8 points and 11.9 rebounds in 1986-87. So, when the West needed an injury replacement for Portland's Steve Johnson the following winter, coach Pat Riley called upon the 7-2 Dallas Maverick.


Info from ESPN and basketball-reference.com
Patrick Dorsey works for SportsNation. He has worked for the Web and newspapers, had a cup of craft service coffee in film school, and played in one Division III golf tournament (he shot 105).

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