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Even More Yao

Someone or other on TNT just remarked that Stromile Swift needs to be Charles Oakley to Yao's Patrick Ewing.

You get these Ewing comparisons, of course, because Jeff Van Gundy is the coach and Ewing himself is an assistant coach. But really it doesn't make much sense. Ewing is seven feet tall. A player six inches shorter than him would be 6'6" and you'd never compare him to Ewing. But Yao is six inches taller. If he continues to improve and ever becomes a super-effective player, he's not going to be "like" any of the stars of the past. Indeed, I'd guess that part of the reason people tend to be down on his game despite the solid numbers is precisely that he doesn't fit people's model of how a good center should look on the court. They're looking to see Patrick Ewing, but he's not there. But of course he isn't. Yao is Yao. He's freakishly huge. His moves don't "look right" because he's radically taller than the people he's getting compared to. Why he can't block shots, I couldn't say.

December 9, 2005 | Permalink


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"Ewing is seven feet tall. A player six inches shorter than him would be 6'6"

Ewing is actually 6'9". A player six inches shorter would be shorter than Gilbert Arenas.

For evidence of this, (as well as a generally wonderful reading experience), check out the Samuel Beckett-like Dinner at Yao's.

Posted by: Petey | Dec 9, 2005 6:55:55 AM

Or to put it another way, Ewing is nine inches shorter than Yao. Ewing is to Yao as Iverson is to Ewing.

Posted by: Petey | Dec 9, 2005 6:58:01 AM

You wouldn't compare them because they would be playing different positions. You are right that Yao is a unique player, but the similarities to Ewing at 7' are greater than the similarities between Ewing and MJ at 6'6".
I think that, like Ewing, Yao will never be a great player, but rather a very, very good player. The difference is significant, as he will never win a championship as the best player on his team. But, they have TMac. If TMac stays healthy (big if), and the two of them develop a better on court partnership, the supporting cast doesn't need to get much better.

Posted by: Maestro | Dec 9, 2005 9:38:32 AM

You think Ewing is actually 6'9", Petey? I think they were just joking in that article. If he's not 7', he's gotta be 6'11". Hakeem is probably about 6'10", in spite of being listed as 7', but Ewing's taller than him, from what I remember.

Posted by: Haggai | Dec 9, 2005 10:35:33 AM

"MUTOMBO: I speak Ebonics now, so eight. Yao, do you speak Ebonics?"

You think this article was not a joke?

Posted by: Al | Dec 9, 2005 10:49:41 AM

"You think Ewing is actually 6'9", Petey? I think they were just joking in that article."

Ewing was 6'9 billed as 7'0". Same way that Barkley was 6'4" billed as 6'6".


"You think this article was not a joke?"

Brilliant existential drama in the style of Beckett. Someone should put it on at the Papp.

Posted by: Petey | Dec 9, 2005 10:59:35 AM

The real question is, what kind of moron thinks Stromille Swift has anything in common with Charles Oakley? Talk about two radically different players.

Posted by: Steve | Dec 9, 2005 11:43:39 AM

Not that we're going to settle it in a comment thread, but I really don't think Ewing is only 6'9".

Posted by: Haggai | Dec 9, 2005 11:52:12 AM

"Not that we're going to settle it in a comment thread, but I really don't think Ewing is only 6'9"

We could ro sham bo for it. Or you could just go consult Google Ruler to see that I'm actually correct.

Posted by: Petey | Dec 9, 2005 12:01:04 PM

I'm 7'0".


Posted by: Patrick | Dec 9, 2005 12:14:11 PM

Well, that settles that.

Posted by: Al | Dec 9, 2005 12:16:33 PM

Bravo on Google Ruler.

Either I'm a total ass, or google has raised expectations far too high.

Posted by: a | Dec 9, 2005 12:26:16 PM

If Ewing is only 6'9", then a lot of people have to be reformatted. Magic is only 6'5", and Robinson is 6'11", for example. It could be true, I guess. But I doubt it.

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Dec 9, 2005 12:51:12 PM

Also, maybe Yao's only 7'3". Who knows how wide this 3" conspiracy is?

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Dec 9, 2005 12:54:32 PM

Yeah, unless Ewing's standing on a phone book, that photo of the Dream Team settles it. He's clearly taller than Magic (6'9") and just barely shorter than Robinson (7'1"). Also, if Ewing is 6'9", then he's only an inch taller than Charles Oakley, and that just ain't so.

Posted by: Steve | Dec 9, 2005 1:06:20 PM

Hmmm. Nice Dream Team photo. Who is that white guy behind Jordan and between Ewing and Magic? He has a uniform, but he can't be a dream teamer, right? Well, he's at least a foot shorter than Ewing, based on the photo.

Posted by: Al | Dec 9, 2005 1:19:15 PM

It is the only college player selected for the dream team: Christian Laettner

Posted by: Joe O | Dec 9, 2005 1:36:50 PM

The 3" conspiracy is vast and deep. I'm 6'0.5" on my best day, yet in the program I was listed at 6'3" iirc, maybe even 6'4". And that was D-III.

Every spring how many times do you hear "Byron Houston's (or pick other random crappy college PF) draft stock has dropped sharply after he was measured at 5'11" rather than the 6'9" he was listed at the NBA Combine."

Posted by: Pooh | Dec 9, 2005 1:41:44 PM

I don't buy the veracity of the Dream Team photo. Barkley is taller than Jordan in that photo.


FWIW, I'm not certain about Ewing's exact height, but I've always understood that, like Barkley, he was billed quite "generously" in the official measurements. It's not an uncommon phenomenon.


Who are you going to believe? Petey or your lying eyes?

Posted by: Petey | Dec 9, 2005 1:42:38 PM

More evidence of the 3" conspiracy: Wes Unseld, listed at 6'7", actually 6'4". But a really HUGE 6'4".

Posted by: Flavius Bocephus | Dec 9, 2005 2:17:59 PM

Maybe the difference is between with sneakers or without sneakers. Most of the time NBA heights are listed with sneakers and FIBA lists them without but it's not very consistent.And of course, sometimes players are listed as taller than they are, too. I can't see Ewing at 6'9, though; I distinctly remember him as much taller than Oakley. Besides, 6'9 centers simply don't have the kind of numbers Ewing had; too many blocked shots. It's funny but in basketball-reference.com Ewing page the second most similar player to Ewing is Yao.

Posted by: Carlos | Dec 9, 2005 3:10:24 PM

I knew it. Spud Webb was actually 4'11"!

Posted by: Al | Dec 9, 2005 3:20:01 PM

But does the 3" conspiracy extend outside of basketball? Outside of sport? Is GWB really only 5'8"? These are the sorts of hard questions to which MY should really be attentive as a journalismo.

Also, doesn't Swift have excellent blocking numbers, despite his size?

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Dec 9, 2005 3:41:54 PM


Bill Russell was 6'9". Zo is 6'10"ish, as was Hakeem. For that matter, so is Ben Wallace.


I think the point about Stro is that while he blocks some shots, he's not the bully that Oak was. Considering that Yao is not especially physical by temperment, he could use a banger to, well bang.

As to Yao, I think a point that hasn't gotten much attention is that he will likely never be a great team defender. His lack of lateral quickness and short(for his height) arms see to that. IIRC, Ewing, in addition to blocking shots, was a fantastic team defender (as was Cartwright, BTW, hence his value).

At this point the same might be said for Shaq (he's been vulnerable to the pick'n'roll for about 4 years now), but he's such an explosive offensive force that it makes up for it.

Posted by: Pooh | Dec 9, 2005 4:48:35 PM

I think Ben's listed as 6'9", although 6'7.5" is probably more accurate.

Posted by: Haggai | Dec 9, 2005 4:57:43 PM

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