As I've been analyzing position size in the NBA, I have always had a hunch that the modern NBA center is shorter than his counterpart in the 1980's and 1990's. I wanted to do a study that wouldn't take all of my morning, so I decided to average the size of every NBA center playing more than 25 minutes per game this season and the same for the 1991-1992 season and compare the results.
These are listed heights (w/shoes) since I cannot find barefoot measurements from the 1980's.
Average NBA Center 2011-12 (25+ mpg) 6'11.3'' 261 lbs
Average NBA Center 1991-92 (25+ mpg) 6'11.7'' 239.4 lbs
It does appear the average center was taller 20 years ago, but considerably lighter, probably due to more advanced weight training today. As I was looking at the numbers, it also appeared there was more diversity in size 20 years ago. There were a ton of 6'11'' centers today when I was looking at them, but 20 years ago there were more players 7'1'' and taller, but also more 6'9'' centers.
Also a bit of a surprise, is that there were 23 centers playing 25 + mpg in both 91-92 and 11-12, so both averages are from the same sized pool.
I was just bored before I had to goto work today and I've been wondering about that for a while, so there are my results.
That's really interesting. I never would've guessed that C's were taller twenty years ago. I think it'd be cool (if you have the time) if you went back and did 81-82 and 01-02 to see how players change each decade. Nonetheless another great post by JoeWolf.
I've always thought the NBA is getting shorter and quicker, 20 years ago Jeff Withey would have been a top 15 prospect and now he's a middle second rounder. lumbering centers just don't make it as much as they used to
There aren't any giants now. Then you had Rik Smits, Manute Bol, and Mark Eaton who were 7'4 or taller. I think Ralph Sampson plyaed in 1991-1992 too. I wonder if those guys skewed the results. But, I am sure that there heights were exaggerated so I don't think we can make any comparisons if we don't know their true bare-foot heights.
I think that the early nineties had some abnormally tall players though.
That's a good idea, If I have some time later this week, I'll give it a shot. If I had to bet I'd say 01-02 would probably be the tallest. You had Shaq, Big Z and still a lot of the legit 7 footers that were dominant in the 90's still playing legit minutes.
Manute Bol, Sampson and Mark Eaton were not playing 25+ MPG in 91-92 so they aren't counted in. I really wanted to get a reading of guys that started or played major minutes off the bench. They didn't skew the results because they didn't qualify in the players i was rating.
Smits was in there as the tallest player that year playing over 25 MPG and Mutombo was 2nd at 7'2''. There were just more players that were legit 7 footers.
In my honest opinion, I think big guys, like Joe Wolf for instance(15.2 ppg 7 rpg in college), were rated so much higher 20-25 years ago was because scouting was so much different. Production was valued so much more than potential, while today it's almost made a 180.
You're right Withey would have been a top 20 pick if this draft class happened 20 year ago, but I feel it was because he produced at a high level in college. Look at the top 10 picks from 1991 and their college production.
#1 Larry Johnson - (6'6'' power forward) 23 ppg 11 rpg
#2 Kenny Anderson - 26 ppg 6 rpg 6 apg
#3 Billy Owens - 23 ppg 11.6 rpg
#4 Dikembe Mutombo - 15.2 ppg 12.2 rpg 4.8 bpg
#5 Steve Smith - 25 ppg 6 rpg
#6 Doug Smith - 23.6 ppg 10.4 rpg
#7 Luc Longley - 19 ppg 9 rpg 3 bpg
#8 Mark Macon - 22 ppg 5 rpg
#9 Stacey Augmon - 16.5 ppg 7.3 ppg
#10 Brian Williams (Bison Dele) 14 ppg 8 rpg
There is no "project" guy in that group. They were all highly productive guys, and Tyler Zeller would have been a no brainer pick over Andre Drummond. It's just so much different now.
Most of the Centers back then were just big bodies though. The game is faster which requires guys that are not the typical big man from the past. Some of those guys could not run with the bigs of today. They were more welll rounded game wise though.
Big men typically stayed longer though. If you only stay your freshmen year than you college stats for the most part would suck. If you went by Withey freshmen season, his numbers would be bad too. I am sure most of us will agree that if Drummond were to stay that 15 pt 10 rb 2 blks would not have been unreasonable and also he is Center height and can move like a guard.
He would be the number 1 or 2 pick if he stayed and posted these number while making it to at least the sweet 16.
See sheltwon3, there were some lane cloggers back then, but the game was actually faster 20 years ago. The Denver Nuggets lead the league in scoring at 103.7 ppg. In 1991-92 they would have been ranked 17th, the centers were also 20 lbs lighter. When all but 3 teams in the leauge were dropping over 100 points a night, you have to have good conditioning.
People think of the lumbering 7 foot centers of that era, and think of Jon Koncak and Chris Dudley, but in all reality, were they any worse than Robin Lopez or Aaron Gray? My vote is no.
I do agree with what you're saying about Drummond. If he would stay til his junior year, he'd be the hands down #1 pick.