Even at center, where the very minimum height was believed only a few years back to be 6'10", the trend toward smaller players is evident. Although it cannot be denied that Wilt Chamberlain and Lew Alcindor are over 7', neither can it be overlooked that Willis Reed, who brought the Knicks the title and himself the MVP award, is 6'9"; that Wes Unseld, who transformed the Bullets from also-rans into championship contenders, is 6'7"; and that Dave Cowens, who is leading the Celtics' resurgence, is 6'8�". (It might also be pointed out that Bill Russell, the best ever, was never, at 6'9�", a really big center.)
But it is at forward that the de-emphasis on mere size is most apparent. Of the 10 forwards who appeared in last year's NBA All-Star Game, nine of them—Cunningham, DeBusschere, Havlicek, Johnson, Van Arsdale, Baylor, Walker, Bridges and Caldwell—are 6'5" or 6'6"; only Connie Hawkins reaches 6'8", once projected as the future "minimum" for that position.
Indeed, it is this new emphasis on quickness and skill, rather than on uncommon size, that has led the fans to identify—as they never used to—with NBA players and caused the notable upswing in attendance in recent years. This identification would become even stronger if NBA teams would list heights honestly and drop the present practice of adding at least an inch to every player's "official" size.
THOMAS N. LONGSTRETH
Are you trying to make the 76ers look bad? On a cover last winter (March 9) 7'1" Lew Alcindor was shown driving past three Sixers. Now you show 5'9" Calvin Murphy faking out four Philly players!
In my book, Bobby Orr, Muhammad Ali, Brooks Robinson and Willie Shoemaker are the only contenders left in the running for your 1970 Sportsman of the Year award. Orr is the star of hockey, Ali has come back with a vengeance, Robinson has excelled at baseball and Shoemaker has booted home more winners than any other human being.
On second thought, I am confident that the champion pilot of the Sport of Kings will emerge as your first Sportsman of the Year for the new decade. Yes, it must be Willie Shoemaker.
It is not necessary to list all of Bobby Orr's accomplishments in his brief National Hockey League career. I am quite sure that anyone with even a passing interest in the game knows that Orr has already revolutionized a sport that is at least three times as old as he is.
I'd like to nominate Bob Gibson for Sportsman of the Year. I believe he deserves the award over all the others, not necessarily for his efforts of the past season which were outstanding, but because he has established himself as a winner over the years. I respect him as an athlete, and I respect him as a man who has overcome great obstacles to become a success. This is my idea of a sportsman. I hope that it is SI's as well.
My nominations are Jack Twyman and the late Maurice Stokes for showing all of us that the essence of sportsmanship, and indeed all sport, is a human encounter. These two men showed that encounter on its finest level.
Wheeling, W. Va.
SI's Sportsman of the Year can only be one man—the late Vince Lombardi, a great coach but an even greater human being.