Cap's Corner - Big Man Skills

Cap's Corner by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

I have been asked to describe by quite a few people the nature of those skills that define a "big man". The first and foremost is size.

Someone who is 6'9" or more usually ends up playing center because height and length are a great advantage when playing hoops. The basket is 10 feet from the ground so it is always advantageous to be tall and have long arms around the basket.

Height is one skill that cannot be taught. The next question has to do with those skills that enhance the abilities of someone who is tall. Quickness and agility are two skills that make a big man more effective. So drills that test quickness and agility can do alot to improve the effectiveness of a pivot player. The Lakers are fortunate to have 4 players who can play the pivot. Andrew Bynum and D.J. Mbenga are centers in the classic mold. Their size agility and court sense make them ideal pivot players. Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom are also capable of playing center but they are blessed with skills that make them effective away from the basket. Pau can score from 15-17 ft. using his jump shot. He's effective when he drives to the basket and he is also able to post up in the pivot like a classical center. His versatility makes him very difficult to guard because he can be effective in more than one way. I have previously described Lamar Odom as a "swiss army knife" at 6'10" he can play point guard, off guard or either forward position. He often gets the defensive rebound and takes it the full length of the court and makes a play on the offensive end by getting all the way to the hoop or by dropping off the pass to an open teammate. He has also become an excellent rebounder at both ends of the court thereby fulfilling a key role off of the bench.

Defensive play from the big guys should involve effective rebounding, shot blocking skills and the ability to shut down driving lanes against any offensive player trying to get to the hoop. Some front line players have many of these of skills and others are good only at some of these skills but their size and consistency will determine the amount of time they get to play. The Lakers are very fortunate to have a variety of players who are effective around the basket. They are able to make a real difference for their team in that area.