NYTimes / Charles Barkley on why the NBA lies about Player Heights
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How many times have you heard or read that a basketball player is listed at, say, 6 feet 8 inches but that he is really closer to 6-6? Do you ever wonder how something as objective as height can be in doubt, especially for elite players?
“They lie,” said Charles Barkley, a basketball commentator for TNT. “I’ve been measured at 6-5, 6-4 ¾. But I started in college at 6-6.”
High school coaches are the first perpetrators, trying to give their players a recruiting edge.
“College coaches pay a hell of a lot better attention when a guy is 6 feet instead of 5-11,” said Chris Ekstrand, a consultant to the N.B.A. who was the longtime editor of its draft guide. “And if you have a 6-7 wunderkind rebounder, you list him at 6-8 to get Division I scouts to notice.”
There is a psychological game going on, too. When a player thinks his opponent is taller, he may give that opponent more respect than he deserves for rebounding — and less than he deserves for quickness. This can be good for several points and rebounds before the player adjusts.
Six feet is a touchstone for guards, as 6-8 is for rebounders. But the second number may be heading downward as rules have softened physical play and helped forwards like Shawn Marion, who is listed at 6-7 but is probably more like 6-5 or 6-6, become imposing rebounders.