Warning: this is kind of long.
From my DVR, an astonishing rant from Bill Walton on Friday morning with Mike Greenberg. Walton doesn’t engage in conversation so much as delivers extended, breathless monologues in which he clearly is more taken with his own flights of rhetorical fancy than he is committed to actually making any sense whatsoever.
If the goal is to spew as much purple prose as possible, Walton is the reigning champion of sports commentators. If, on the other hand, the goal is to make one logically coherent statement, Walton is quite a bit less successful.
The meat of Greenie and Walton’s “conversation” was about the decline of the Big Man in basketball, prompted by Greenie asking Walton whether he would have been the same player had he left college early, as great big men invariably do today.
Walton said no, of course, and offered this assessment of the state of the big man today:
“the decline of the big man in basketball.. [compared to] when we used to have so many remarkable stars dominating the game is directly related to all the rule changes, including the cultural shift that doesn’t allow these young men to fulfill their dreams [because they leave college early].”
Then Walton offered a list of factors that are, in no particular order, responsible for this change:
– they don’t go to college, they don’t learn how to practice, they “don’t get touched by the master teachers”
– the three point shot has altered the role of the big man
– the changing structure of youth basketball, where the high school coach is no longer central to a player’s development, instead the money-driven AAU is central
– that there is a lack of team structure – you no longer have a coach who says get that ball inside to a big man
– the guards are just jacking it up at the three point
– Shaq, who has changed basketball, “because he’s just scared all the centers away”
Later, Walton reminisced wistfully about the late 1980s, when the game was dominated by great big men including Sampson, Olajuwon, Ewing and later David Robinson. And, then, in discussing Greg Oden, Walton blasted his coach Thad Matta, for under-utilizing him, calling him a huge “waste” of talent, and comparing Oden unfavorably to Noah, Horford and the Florida team in general, because Oden just “stood around” and was reactive and passive and “that’s not how you win.”
Finally, Walton offered this pearl of wisdom about life in general:
“ultimate success is from training your mind…and how to learn, how to think, how to build…they (the contemporary player) think it’s all about the physical nature of being tall…the greatest of champions, they know how to out-think their opponents…that’s how you learn how to beat the big man and the way you learn how to do that is from learning from the master teachers at the college level.”