Originally written on Taking Bad Schotz  |  Last updated 12/17/12
The other night while I was watching the Lakers take on the abysmal Washington Wizards, I became increasingly frustrated as the game went on watching Dwight Howard. I became frustrated because the more and more I watched Howard, I realized he had no game. Now don’t get me wrong, Howard has unbelievable athletic ability, however being a great athlete doesn’t necessarily make you a great basketball player. Howard is an unskilled basketball player. When I say this, I mean that he has little skill other than the fact he is a freak athlete. He has no post moves, in fact his only real offensive skill dunking is directly associated with his athleticism. Howard is not the only player in the NBA with this problem though. If you look at guys like Blake Griffin, Javale McGee, and Tyson Chandler they all have the same problem. So my question is how did basketball go from skilled bigs like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, and my favorite big of all time Hakeem Olajuwon, to what we have in the NBA today? AP Photo/Jae C. Hong Sportscenter I grew up in the Sportscenter generation. While Sportscenter is a great show to catch up on the scores and stats from last night’s action, it has come at a cost. When you watch a Sportscenter highlight reel what do most of the highlights consist of? They consist of a lot of dunks; very rarely do you see a well-executed post move on a Sportscenter Top Ten. As time has gone on, what has been seen on Sportscenter has been perceived as good basketball. Therefore as time has gone on players have developed games to meet this perception. This is made evident by looking at highlight tapes. Look at a career highlight tape of Dwight Howard. Most of the plays consist of thunderous dunks, and blocked shots. Very rarely will you see a post move in one of these mixes. That’s because there are far less clips of Howard making a post move than of him dunking. On the contrary, look at a highlight tape of Hakeem Olajuwon. You will witness some of the greatest post plays ever seen. The footwork and grace that Olajuwon played with was absolutely beautiful to watch. Olajuwon may have been the best player in the history of the NBA to use the ball fake. Olajuwon was great at ball faking to get his defender off the ground and then using a well-timed up and under move to leave defenses scratching their heads. However you don’t see this beautiful post play anymore in the NBA and one of the reasons is because of Sportscenter. AAU Basketball Photo Credit: Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times AAU basketball has always been a crooked organization. Look at the recruitment of Rudy Gay for instance. Here you had a kid born in Maryland, who was a big University of Maryland fan all his life, and then all of a sudden, Gay commits to UCONN. Why did this happen? Maybe the fact that ESPN reported in 2003 that Gay’s AAU coach received $22,000 to bring his AAU team to play an Exhibition against UCONN. These AAU coaches have a lot of influence over a kid’s life, so you might say Gay was influenced. But what does Rudy Gay’s recruitment have to do with Dwight Howard’s lack of skill in the post? Let me ask you this, what is the name of Rudy Gay’s AAU coach? Better yet, what was the name of Dwight Howard’s AAU coach? The answer is Cecil Kirk and Wallace Prather. What do these men have in common? No one knows who they are. If you went up to the average person on the street today and asked them if they knew who Cecil Kirk and Wallace Prather were, they would say they didn’t. This means that these men weren’t great basketball minds. If these two guys were great coaches then after their programs produced NBA first round picks, wouldn’t D-1 schools all across the country be lining up for their services? Both of these men were not good coaches, they were instead good assemblers of talent. Dwight Howard’s AAU team also had Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith on the roster. A very crucial time in a basketball player’s development is their four years of high school. If a player doesn’t gather an array of skills by this time, most likely they will not pan out. If you don’t have a good coach who is able to develop these skills, then they will be far behind. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar went to high school at a basketball powerhouse in New York City. His high school coach was a guy named Jack Donohue who went on to coach the Canadian National Team for 17 years. Then after high school Abdul-Jabbar went on to play at UCLA for the greatest basketball coach of all time John Wooden. This means that Abdul-Jabbar was taught the game by two successful coaches who knew what they were talking about. Now while Gay went on to go to UCONN and play for Jim Calhoun where he could hone his skills, Howard went straight to the NBA. Dwight Howard came into the NBA unskilled unlike Kareem Abdul-Jabbar because he did not have the coaching Abdul-Jabbar did. Basketball coaches have a large influence on developing a player’s skill and since Dwight Howard was coached by an assembler of talent and not a basketball mind, he has relatively no skill other than his great athleticism. Bottom Line Dwight Howard is one of the best athlete’s the NBA has ever seen, I’m not arguing that. Being a great athlete doesn’t automatically make you a great basketball player. The great players always find a way to be great after their athleticism leaves. Sportscenter and AAU basketball have hurt players like Dwight Howard because they have all the potential in the world, and their skills are never developed. Whether that be because Sportscenter makes kids believe that being a great basketball is dependent on how many times you make their top ten plays, or the lack of quality coaching in AAU basketball. Charles Barkley made a great point a couple of weeks ago during the Spurs and Heat game that garnered a lot of attention. He said, “A player only has so many jumps in his knees,” and he’s right because father time is someone who never loses. Could Dwight Howard totally change his game as he ages? There’s no question about it. Will he? Only time will tell.
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