"No," says Barkley, "I was never that ugly."
Miller wants to take no chances that he'll be called anything but Big O, so he had it tattooed on the back of his right shoulder. Seems that Sun fans, however, call him Ollie. Is this guy a folk hero in the making, or what?
Of course, having your way against the aging Lakers and their enigmatic center, Vlade Divac, and making an impact against Robinson in a best-of-seven series are—as the Big O will undoubtedly discover in Round 2 (if he already hasn't)—two completely different things. After the San Antonio Spurs eliminated the Portland Trail Blazers with a 100-97 overtime win in Game 4 last Friday, Robinson proclaimed guard Willie Anderson "the key to the series." Nice gesture, wrong analysis. Robinson, who averaged 19.3 points and a whopping 15 rebounds against Portland, is the absolute key to everything in San Antonio, including visiting hours at the Alamo.
Olajuwon, of the Houston Rockets, and Perkins, of the Seattle SuperSonics, best symbolize the diversity of the pivot-men remaining in the playoffs. Olajuwon—who thumped the Los Angeles Clippers and their portly pivotman, Stanley Roberts, for 31 points, 21 rebounds and seven blocked shots in Houston's 84-80 victory in Game 5 last Saturday—is basically a post player who likes to set up on the blocks. But he also has a wide assortment of moves he can use to extricate himself from double and sometimes triple teams, which he faced all season and will certainly face as long as the Rockets remain alive.
The long-armed Perkins, by contrast, is likely to end up anywhere on the floor: in the paint, in the corner or far out on the perimeter, where he shoots with the accuracy of a guard. Indeed, 12 of Perkins's 20 points in Seattle's 100-92 Game 5 victory over the Utah Jazz on Saturday came on three-point shots that he released in near isolation because his cement-footed counterpart, Mark Eaton, couldn't lumber out to guard him.
For an elemental, mono a mono struggle in the pivot, the Ewing-Mourning matchup in the Eastern Conference semifinals should be the best around. It's strength against strength, iron will against iron will, dunk against dunk, jump shot against jump shot, Hoya against Hoya. Ewing came out on top (just barely) in Game 1 on Sunday, when the Knicks beat Zo's Charlotte Hornets 111-95. Ewing wound up with 33 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots, while Mourning had 27 points (but only six in the second half), 13 boards and four blocks.
If Mourning continues to improve, perhaps he, not Rookie of the Year Shaquille O'Neal, will be the man who carries the banner of the NBA pivotman into the 21st century. O'Neal needs to develop an outside shot—something Mourning already possesses—to go with his extraordinary athleticism. Finally, a word to 7'6" Shawn Bradley, who almost certainly will be one of the top two or three selections in next month's draft: You'd better bring a game, son. The big guys are waiting.