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WHERE ARE THEY?
Jack McCallum
February 22, 1988
The once dominant NBA center has all but disappeared
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February 22, 1988

Where Are They?

The once dominant NBA center has all but disappeared

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Since basketball aficionados search for centers with the intensity of ornithologists stalking the elusive ivory-billed woodpecker, there is already much talk about the talented senior class of high school centers, led by Alonzo Mourning, a 6'10" smoothie from Indian River High in Chesapeake, Va., who is bound for Georgetown. Will we get our next Chamberlain, our next Russell, our next Abdul-Jabbar from that group?

Wooten certainly is a doubter. "I already know the first question a lot of these guys asked recruiters. 'Who are you going to get at center, because I want to play forward?' " he says. "I don't know who out of this class will even be a center."

As things stand now, perhaps Daugherty, with his smooth passing and heady play, will be the center of attention in the '90s. Or maybe it will be Ewing. Or perhaps Olajuwon, the best bet. Now that the long shadow of Sampson no longer constrains him, maybe Akeem will put together a few monster seasons of the old-fashioned 30-point, 20-rebound variety.

Or, it could be Robinson. Can he be an officer, a gentleman and an era?

NBA people aren't exactly bubbly about his chances. Says Detroit general manager McCloskey, "He hasn't demonstrated up to now that he's got what the great ones had." And here's a scouting report on Robinson courtesy of Rick Ma-horn, the Pistons' bullyboy power forward: "They talk about this Robinson kid, but he looks to be a finesse player who runs the floor. He's nothing like Wilt was or even like Akeem is now." Better polish up that hard hat, Ensign.

Yes, these are hard times for NBA centers, what with collapsing defenses stifling their shots and forwards who are more like tall tight ends grabbing away their rebounds. Pay heed, those who would crown David as king, and lower your expectations. Never mind asking whether Robinson will become another Chamberlain, Russell or Abdul-Jabbar. A more germane question for this center-less time is this: Will David Robinson's best ever match Walt Bellamy's?

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