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NBA Centers: Where Have They Gone, Who Are The Best Remaining

Tim DuncanToday’s ten best centers, the envelope, please:

There’s Timmy (I don’t care what they say, he’s not a power forward), Dwight (even as a post-op shadow of himself), Drew (even if his only action this season was in a bowling alley), Jo, Marc, Tyson…

I’m sorry, would you settle for six?

As everyone knows, there are no more centers like Wilt, Russell, Kareem, Big Red, Moses, Hakeem or Shaq.

Or, at least, that’s what everyone says.

In fact, there are more good big men around all the time. Even if the present superstar count is down compared to, say, the ‘90s when Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo went at it.

There’s no longer really a position called “center.”

NBA coaches now use “bigs” to refer to centers and power forwards, whose role differntiation has blurred to the point that fives often become fours (Pau Gasol going from Memphis to the Lakers) and vice versa (Larry Sanders, going from his first season to his second in Milwaukee).

Then there’s Duncan. No one’s sure what he is.

Timmy looks like a center but the Spurs insist he’s a power forward — where, coincidentally or not, he only has to beat out the Mailman to head the all-time list, instead of Wilt, Russell, et al.

Where have all the centers gone?

Lots of them are now power forwards (Serge Ibaka, Josh Smith, Amir Johnson, Derrick Favors) or threes (Kevin Durant, Danilo Gallinari, Chandler Parsons, Lamar Odom) or even point-forwards (LeBron James, listed at 6-8, 260, making him bigger than Hall of Famer Wes Unseld, who runs the point and jumped center for half of the 2012 post-season.

When Wilt arrived in the NBA, there was one other seven footer — Walter Dukes of Detroit, who packed 220 pounds on his tall frame (to Wilt’s 325 or so) — and two more over 6-foot-9 in the league: Minneapolis reserve Ray Felix at 6-11 and Cincinnati’s Phil Jordan at 10.

Giants walked the NBA in those days, all right. If there weren’t many like Wilt and Bill Russell, they were enough to frighten all the little people just by showing up.

So, here is our list of today’s 10 best: [Click here to see our Top 10 Centers]

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Mark Heisler, an NBA Hall of Fame writer and 2006 winner of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame's Curt Gowdy Award, writes for Sheridanhoops.com, HoopsHype.com, TruthDig.com and Huffingtonpost.com, as well as Lakers Nation. | Follow @MarkHeisler

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