MANILA, Philippines – Back in the 1990s’ golden era of basketball, almost no one could easily score in the paint whenever Hall of Famer Alonzo Mourning was anywhere near it.
And in an era where the shots that mattered came from inside the shaded area, the former two-time Defensive Player of the Year was a headache for any opposing ball club.
Fast forward to the present, the defensive big man archetype has seen a dip in popularity amid the meteoric rise of three-point shooters.
But Mourning said the direction the game is taking is not such a bad trend after all.
“The scoring has gone up tremendously. The game has changed tremendously and has changed for the better,” he said in an interview at the Vivo-NBA Philippines partnership signing. “When I played, I worked from the inside. Now, more than ever, the emphasis is on perimeter players and shooters.”
“So now, you have some teams like the Houston Rockets, for example. All 5 guys on the floor are shooting threes, which opens the court up,” he continued. “[The] Golden State [Warriors], as well. All 5 guys on the court are shooting threes, which opens driving lanes up, so you’re able to get a lot of layups.”
The Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat legend was briefly in the Philippines for various promotions between the two companies. He gamely answered questions and mingled with fans despite a long flight.
The 48-year-old legend was all praises for how the game’s evolution has been beneficial to the sport in the long run.
“Basketball is the number one sport in the world. It’s the number one sport in the world for a reason, and the reason is the players, the product that we put on the floor,” he said. “The players are coming in to this league a lot more versatile and a lot more talented in a lot of different areas. Guys like Kevin Durant, he’s a prime example. It started with Dirk Nowitzki, who’s a 7-footer on the perimeter shooting the basketball. Through that evolution, the way the league now calls the games has helped benefit the perimeter player.”
“Guys that are very versatile are able to run a bit freer on the perimeter and they’re able to get their shot off a little bit easier,” he continued. “That doesn’t take anything away from their skill level. Younger kids are seeing these players in the league so they’re working on their games from the outside-in, not inside-out.”
Mourning, a 7-time All-Star, spent 16 seasons in the league before retiring in 2008 as a 1-time champion with the Miami Heat. He was named the Heat’s Vice President of Player Programs and Development shortly after retiring and has been in that position ever since. – Rappler.com