Arinze Onuaku was one of the Syracuse big men that played in the legendary six-overtime game in the 2008 Big East Tournament quarterfinal against UConn at Madison Square Garden.
Despite a potentially career-ending injury his senior year, Arinze would go on to play for several NBA teams and at the highest level overseas.
In our recent interview, Arinze talked about the dynamics of the big man in the NBA and the growing trend of shooting threes.
It’s definitely totally different. They want the scores a lot higher. I mean, every time you look or touch somebody it’s a foul… Back in the day bump was way more physical.
You know back then money was made in the paint for the most part. You had great, big, dominant centers that dominated the paint and now you got… even the big guys everybody shooting threes and everybody wants to be a team that shoots threes.
I think it’s gonna take a team with two dominant bigs to actually win something for people to be like, OK, now we need to go back to playing with two dominant bigs.
Small ball has taken the league by storm over the past decade or so. Versatility is being valued more than ever, not just for bigs that can shoot but ones who can be mobile and make plays.
Arinze comes from the “traditional” era of the big man. Some might consider it outdated, which isn’t the case, but when you look at the NBA bigs who are considered elite, they all exhibit some kind of inside-outside game.
The Los Angeles Lakers won the 2020 NBA championship largely due to their overwhelming size. While LeBron James isn’t a big man, his presence and versatility at 6’9 combined with the totality of Anthony Davis made them ultimately unbearable. Many of LA’s wings, guards, and reserve bigs added to their size advantage as well.
We may not be too far away from two needing two dominant bigs to win an NBA title.