The NBA is full of different breeds. There’s the shooters, who will camp out in the corner waiting patiently for their turn to strike. There’s the athletic slashers who can throw it down with ferocity on the fast break or through traffic. There’s the big, stiff centers who seem as though their only perceivable skill is being an over-sized human. However, there’s one breed of NBA player that has slowly gone extinct. I’m talking about the enforcer.
You remember the enforcers, don’t you? They’re certainly absent in this year’s playoffs, wouldn’t you say? In a land before rampant flopping and uber-strict regulations, these guys were the backbones of the league. Every team needed one guy that would stick up for his teammates and wasn’t afraid to lay someone out of knock an opponent on their ass. I’m talking about Charles Oakley, I’m talking about Michael Cage, I’m talking about Rick Mahorn.
Even in a more recent era, I’m talking about Danny Fortson, I’m talking about Reggie Evans, I’m talking about Rasheed Wallace. I’m talking about the guys who weren’t shy about adding a little “oomph” to their box out. I’m talking about players who know how to get the most value out of a foul and would rather die than give up an easy, uncontested lay-up. Opponents hated playing against these guys, and teammates were always glad to be playing with them.
These days, enforcers are few and far between. You could make the argument that Ron Artest fits the bill. One could potentially make a case for Matt Barnes as well. You could even debate that Tony Allen is a rare guard-enforcer. However, the breed is slowly going extinct. They just don’t make ‘em like Dennis Rodman anymore. And softness is what’s killing it.
I watch today’s NBA and it’s become soccer. Guys are constantly acting in an effort to win over referees, because unfortunately, winning over the refs usually means winning the game. Even superstars like LeBron James and James Harden are notorious for “selling” fouls and taking bumps that make me hope Charles Barkley isn’t watching. Standing your ground has somehow become a thing of the past.
Would Barkley ever toss himself into the second row in an effort to fabricate an overly-aggressive opponent box out? No. Would Ben Wallace take a charge and hit the ground without ever actually making contact with another player? No. Would Bill Laimbeer let it slide if someone fouled one of his teammates unnecessarily hard? No.
The NBA needs to toughen up. Players need to ask themselves “Would Karl Malone do that?” before they make decisions. We need to reverse the way things are going, because for every Zach Randolph that’s being ushered out the door, there’s another Andrea Bargnani waiting to take his place. While skilled players are a great thing, there needs to be a balance.
The league can’t be all about crossovers and three-point shots; someone still has to box out and set screens.