Things have changed rapidly in the NBA for Dwight Howard, who as recently as 2013 was the guy everybody wanted, and who last night was traded to Charlotte for a grab-bag. Some of this is because of the age and peculiarities of Howard himself, but a big part of it also is that basketball players like Dwight Howard are slowly going the way of the buffalo.
This kind of thing happens in sports from time to time. As games evolve, positional demands evolve, and where you once would have preferred a linebacker who could take on a fullback at the point of attack, you’re now more concerned about how long it takes him to get to the sideline to stop a bubble screen. In baseball it was once considered “good” to “put the ball in play” or “steal second base.” Now you’re just supposed to walk or bash it over the fence.
So I got to thinking. What other types of athletes are growing more obsolete by the year?
Pass-First PGs Who Can’t Shoot
When I was growing up, these were considered the noblest kinds of basketball players. Humble facilitators who did things like “set up the offense” and “find the open man.” Assist-to-turnover ratio was everything for these guys, and if this was your game, trust you were going to be expected to “lock up” the opposing team’s point guard, if not its best overall player.
Steph Curry has obliterated this guy.
Bulky Running Backs Who Can’t Catch
It used to be that a running back who was useful as a pass receiver was seen as some kind of wonderback. LaDainian Tomlinson and Priest Holmes come to mind, and in their wake came guys like Arian Foster and more or less every running back in the NFL today. When half the league is in shotgun on thrd-and-2, the usefulness of a 240-pound bruiser is reduced.
Run-Stuffing Middle Linebackers
It’s not that “stuffing the run” is no longer important, but it is now less important than being able to competently cover a pass receiver.
Any Football Player Who Would Have Worn A Neck Roll In 1995
Fullbacks, middle linebackers, some safeties even — they would all wear neck rolls from time to time. Some, like Zach Thomas, took it even further, with that big padded rectangle deal that would stick out of their shoulder pads and stop their neck from bending back too far when they went facemask-to-facemask with Mike Alstott in the A gap.
Pick-And-Pop Forwards Without 3-Point Range
This kind of player has always driven me crazy. I’m talking about the power forward with a decent stroke who because of fear and/or laziness will shoot from 20 feet, but not from 24. This is even more aggravating in college basketball, where the 3-point line is closer. There is just no excuse for this in professional basketball.
Most Kinds of Baseball Players
I’ll let Tom Verducci explain it.
Blocking Tight Ends
This role has been on the decline for 20 years or more. While there is still space on NFL rosters for bulky run-blocking tight ends, for a lot of teams removing their pass-catching tight end is removing their best offensive weapon, which doesn’t make a lot of sense when the upside is getting a slightly better edge block for a mediocre running back.