I have been thinking of Nate Thurmond a lot since his death. Mostly about what a fine human being he was. But this morning I started thinking about what a fabulous all-around center he was. One could argue that he was the best All Around NBA center to play the game. Let's consider the Hall of Fame centers in the NBA: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Willlis Reed, Bob Lanier, Hakeem Olajuwan, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Patrick Ewing, and Bill Walton (with the caveat that Walton did not pass the test of time). Nate had superior offensive skills than Russell and Reed. He had better defensive skills than Chamberlain, Olajuwan, and Walton. He could out-reboud and out-pass Ewing. It's a close call, but he was a better rebounder than Jabbar, over-all and clearly over that same number of seasons. Remember, I'm talking about the wide spectrum of skills-sets required of a dominant center. Does that mean that if you were starting a team you'd select Nate over Russell or Jabbar? Probably not. Still, there is a good argument for Nate being the all around most skilled center that ever played. Then, there's Shaq and Duncan, as yet not in the Hall of Fame to consider. Shaq had few authentic skills except for incredible size and quickness, and Duncan, well, everybody calls him a power forward.
Having said all this about Nate. I'm trying to think if there is any center even close in skill to Nate Thurmond playing today in the NBA. There isn't, not by a long shot. Not by an enormous long shot. Hassan Whiteside, DeMarcus Cousins? Give me a break.
There is, however, one player that, were he to work his butt off, might - and I say might because I don't know how mentally tough and more importantly how ambitious he is - become a center in the mold of the Hall of Fame centers mentioned above. His name is Steven Adams of the Oklahoma Thunder. In this modern NBA game of small-ball, Adams is the only player I can see who has the speed, the size and the athleticism to be a dominant at his position in the small ball era. So far, of course, he has virtually no offense. But imagine Adams with a jump hook, a drop step, a step-back jumper and improved passing skills. Combined with rebounding and shot blocking and paint defending he already has in his skill-set. Oh, my goodness. One could build a team around him.
Do other people see Steven Adams' potential the way I do? Doesn't matter. The question is does Steven Adams recognize the potential that I see in him? In my opinion, Steven Adams could be the next Nate Thurmond. And you can't be a better NBA center than that.
Since this is really the second tribute Blog about Nate, I'll close with this from the Bible rather than a Poem because its message is all about how my friend lived his life.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition
or vain conceit,
but in humility consider
others better than yourself.
What my musings are all about...
Blogging might well be the 21st century's form of journaling. As a writing teacher, I have always advised my students to keep a daily journal as a way of organizing their thoughts for future writing projects, a discipline I have unfortunately never consistently practiced myself. By blogging, I might finally be able to follow my own good advice.
The difference between journaling and blogging is that the blogger opens his or her writing to the public, something journal- writers are usually reluctant to do. I am not so reticent.
The trick for me will be to avoid cluttering the internet with more blather, something none of us need more of. If I stick to subjects I know: sports and literature, I believe I can avoid that pitfall. I can't promise that I'll not stray from time to time to comment on ancillary subjects, but I will make every attempt to be interesting and perhaps even insightful.