The Golden State Warriors' small-ball revolution was short-lived.
Remember two years ago, when Steve Kerr realized that his team was at its best without a center on the floor? At the time, it made sense. The center was a dying position in the game, legislated out by zone defense rule changes and the NBA's infatuation with the 3-pointer.
A funny thing happened over the past couple of years, though — the big men started to catch up. Thanks to several particularly strong draft classes joining forces with the likes of DeMarcus Cousins, the NBA is now on the verge of a center renaissance.
Call it the new Golden Age of big men in basketball, hearkening back to the 1980s and '90s when guys like David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing ruled the paint.
Today's stars play the game in a different way than their behemoth brethren, to be sure. Gone are the days of dumping the ball into your center with his back to the basket and letting him go to work until a double-team comes.
The modern big man faces the basket, blowing past his opponent for a rim-rattling dunk. The modern big man excels in the pick-and-roll, a fundamental basketball play that for some reason only the Utah Jazz used to full effect during the Golden Age. And the modern big man knows that above else, his job is to protect the paint.
The means have changed, but the end result stays the same. When all else is equal in basketball, height trumps everything. Enjoy small-ball while it lasts, friends. The big men are coming to reclaim their NBA.
Here, then, are eight of the very best young bigs and their Hall of Fame comparisons.
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Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves: David Robinson
During the NBA's Golden Age of bigs, no one could hold a candle to Robinson's athleticism — just as no one today is in the same league as Towns. Robinson's ability to notch a quadruple-double emphasized the fact that he was one of the game's best defenders, too.
Hakeem Olajuwon eventually surpassed The Admiral (in my book, at least), but there's no doubt that Robinson had all of the tools. There's also no doubt that you could argue Towns is the modern Olajuwon. Or the modern Bill Russell. Or the modern "greatest center ever."
Sorry. I'm probably getting ahead of myself, but Towns is the future. Dig it.
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers: Hakeem Olajuwon
The Process is real, and it is glorious. Embiid has clearly modeled his game after Olajuwon's, working on his Dream Shake and all of his assorted post moves.
In fact, if you're an old-school NBA fan who appreciates back-to-the-basket play, check out Embiid and the Sixers. He's the closest thing you'll get to the good ol' days.
Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks: Patrick Ewing
To be honest, Porzingis presented the biggest challenge on this list. He's undoubtedly one of the game's brightest young stars, so you can't leave him out of a discussion about the new Golden Age of big men — even though one could argue that with his frame, he's more of a power forward than a center.
Beyond that, who from the '80s and '90s could do what the Porzingod does? Ewing is the best comparison to my eyes — yes, because of the Knicks thing, but also thanks to Ewing's proficiency from midrange. He was one of the previous generation's best perimeter shooting big men, a distinction that belongs to Kristaps these days.
In an age of waifishly thin, mobile centers, Boogie is the bulky bully doing whatever he wants against smaller opponents. Plus, Cousins' inability to get along with anyone in the locker room is a nice parallel for Shaq's own bullheadedness with the Lakers.
Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz: Dikembe Mutombo
Gobert is a slightly better offensive player than Mutombo was, but the Jazz center butters his bread on the defensive side of the floor. Where Mutombo was arguably the greatest rim protector of his era, Gobert is looking to grow into that role. If he can get there — and I think he will — his ability to defend the entire area under the 3-point line by himself will turn him into the perfect antidote for Golden State's perimeter-oriented attack.
Let Gobert protect the paint while all four of his teammates guard the 3-point line, and good luck to any opposing offense trying to break through that defense.
Steven Adams, Oklahoma City Thunder: Alonzo Mourning
While Larry "Grandmama" Johnson was the one getting all the accolades in Charlotte, 'Zo did the dirty work on the boards and in the paint.
It's a situation Adams can relate to, given his role relative to Russell Westbrook for today's Oklahoma City Thunder.
Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons: Dennis Rodman
Drummond's value as an NBA big man is predicated almost entirely on his nose for rebounding. On the other hand, he can't knock down a free throw to save his life, and he's rather limited in general offensively.
That's Dennis Rodman in a nutshell — a much larger nutshell in the form of Drummond, of course, but a nutshell nonetheless.
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans: Kevin Garnett
Davis isn't the defensive force KG was, of course, but, like Garnett, he is a dominant big man who blurs the line between power forward and center.
And unfortunately for Davis, he's following in Garnett's footsteps as one of the game's best players who can't escape being sucked down by one of the NBA's worst teams. Here's hoping the Pelicans get things turned around before The Brow leaves town like The Big Ticket had to do in Minnesota.
The NBA's new Golden Age of bigs doesn't stop there; we're just running out of elite comparisons for today's big men.
Still, we'd be remiss in leaving out guys like Dragan Bender, Trey Lyles, Jusuf Nurkic, Hassan Whiteside, Nikola Jokic, Thon Maker, Trey Lyles, Ivica Zubac, Giannis Antetokounmpo (he might be a point guard, but he is a very big man), and many more. If your favorite young big man didn't make the list, don't fret. We didn't overlook him — he's just a unique talent the game has never seen before.