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Search for the Hoops Outliers


In his book, “Outliers” Malcolm Gladwell wrote about how IQ level is not a sole determinant of success, specifically how IQ is not directly proportional to a person’s achievement. He cited Christopher Langan who had an IQ at 195, higher than the recorded IQ of Albert Einstein and many noted scientists.

Langan hasn’t formulated any theory or invented spaceships, as he’s just a rancher. Gladwell used his story to prove his point—the highest IQ does not equate the highest success. Since Gladwell is also a basketball fan, he also related it to basketball. He noted that Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player ever, is not the tallest.

There are hordes of players who are taller than Michael Jordan, but he has stepped out as the most iconic player, more valuable than the Hall of Fame centers that he had to contend with (Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing and Shaquille O’Neal among others).

However, this does not mean that height, just like IQ, doesn’t matter. There is a level of IQ required if you want to succeed in the intellectual field. Gladwell estimated that the most successful people still need a considerably high IQ, like 130. However, past a certain point, maybe 160, IQ doesn’t really matter much, and may even be a detriment.

Similar to height. Perhaps Jordan’s 6’4-6’6 (without shoes-with shoes) may be too short nowadays, but 6’8” is enough to be competitive. LeBron James at that height can guard centers, while he is chasing point guards.

What does it mean to us?
Kai Sotto is the exception: a perfect blend of genetics and development that helped him reach 7’2. But as we mentioned in a previous column, we have a lot more 6’7-6’9 players already. Perhaps we already have the height that we need, we just have to develop their skills.

The last World Cup had Serbia, one of the tallest teams with an average height of 6’9 only finished fifth. Teams like Argentina, who finished with the silver medal, are shorter than that.

It was evident that players like Mark Barroca and JioJalalon may not be tall enough for the world stage (it is possible that Jayson Castro already sensed this, and just stuck with the Asian qualifiers). However, guards like CJ Perez can cope, and because of his athleticism, they can be competitive.

JuneMar Fajardo did better in this World Cup, and his game evolved from his usual post plays. He became more mobile and active.

These two examples show that there could be hope for the Philippines to have a more dignified showing at the World Stage. We just need to find these outliers — players who can transcend their height.

Barkley and the beast
Charles Barkley is one example of the outlier. He chose to play power forward when he was even shorter than Michael Jordan. That time when he there were all-star centers, a 6’4 power forward could gather double-digit rebounds. He even rounded out his game, eventually developing a three-point shot.

Players can reinvent themselves, players can choose their positions and excel. Calvin Abueva is an outlier himself. At barely 6’2, he also led the PBA in rebounding and even step up to guard the opposing import (which got him into trouble, but that’s another story).

Chuck, when asked about his secret to rebounding, was summarized in one statement: “Get the damn ball.” Desire and tenacity, among other things, can overcome a height or even strength deficit. The key is for taller players to concentrate on their position, develop the skills they want, regardless of height.

If they let height dictate positions, Barkley and Abueva would not have been the rebounding monsters that they were. Sure, they can develop other offensive skills, but they should continue to pursue their position goals, whatever they may be.

Magic Johnson was a 6’9 point guard who was able to perform when he was pushed to play center at the NBA Finals when Kareem Abdul Jabbar got injured. Adversity brings out the best in players sometimes.

More tall players are seeking to play smaller positions, but when necessity dictates, they should be ready to play big-guy ball.

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