Sunday, April 15, 2012


A seeming contradiction in mankind's (and, yes, I do use the gender-specific on purpose) world view is that things seem to get better and worse as the years go on. In the same way as "things ain't the way they used to be" with regards to the behavior of youth, the quality of music, the amount of crime, the amount of criminals, the audacity of criminals, the breakdown of manners among the youth, the breakdown among manners among the general population, so too are things somehow assumed to be better, faster, more efficient.
We look at the butt-hugger wearing, set-shot hoisting, three-man-weave in the halfcourt running players of the black-and-white days, and we see a much inferior product than what came with the days of frighteningly fast-twitch fueled athletes like Kobe, Dominique Wilkins, Shaq, Scottie Pippen, Michael Jordan, Blake Griffin, and LeBron James.
There is, then, an assumption of a positive correlation between the x and y axes that are time and level of athleticism. If Bob Cousy is the Homo Erectus, then LeBron is the Homo Sapiens Sapiens.
This linear evolution seems completely reasonable to the reasonable person (I'm not talking about the people who claim that "hand-eye coordination" is as significant as jumping ability, or that creating on the typewriter is in some way more pleasurable than creating on the PC). The linear evolution goes from room-sized IBM to the home PC to the iPad, from "Pong" to "Super Mario Bros." to "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare." It goes from Mikan to Wilt to Shaq...wait a minute.
There is your oxymoronic regression, as Wilt, a man who was "ahead of his time" by seemingly millenia, would have to stack up against any athlete from today's modern NBA. Here was a man who forced the NBA to outlaw the dunk for a time to limit his dominance. A man who could run the floor like a guard at 84" plus. A man who defied statisticians by catching, rather than blocking opponents' shots-was this a rebound or a blocked shot?
Wilt averaged plus points in one season, 29+ rebounds for his career, and did all this despite an absymal free throw shooting percentage that would have put his career scoring average into the heavens. It was almost if a man so dominant didn't deign be good at such a pedestrian pursuit as free-throw shooting, because, c'mon, anybody can shoot a decent percentage at the free throw line.
I don't think the NBA will see an appreciable spike in free-throw percentage now, or maybe ever, as that evolutionary scale seems to have come to its logical end.
Can you imagine, though, someone being more athletically dominant than Wilt? Will they be able to best his feat of grabbing a penny from the top of the backboard?
I prefer to watch the black-and-white footage of Wilt, rather than the color footage that followed him into the end of his career in the '70s. In black- and- white, Wilt looks both ancient and modern. A contradiction?
Makes perfect (sort of) sense to me.

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