When most people think of the NBA they think of abnormally large men running, jumping, and banging into one another in ways that the average human being never could. The NBA is absolutely a sport dominated by athletes at least one standard deviation above the norm in terms of height. And in a world full of abnormally large men, the largest reign supreme.

Those big men receive a lot of acclaim, but we seldom think of them as the biggest stars in the NBA. When we think of NBA stars, we usually think about (relatively) smaller players like Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, etc. However, with the exception of Jordan, none of these players have ever won an NBA championship without a significantly talented big man playing center or power forward in their front court. This trend has held true over the past 22 years, and there are no signs of change in the immediate future. Our most recent NBA champions, the Dallas Mavericks, were anchored by defensive stalwart Tyson Chandler at center. Before that, the Lakers were anchored by Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol at center and power forward respectively. The Celtics had Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins. The Spurs had Tim Duncan and before that David Robinson. The 2006 Heat had Shag, and before that the ’00-’02 Lakers had him. The Pistons had Ben Wallace, the Rockets had Hakeem Olajuwan, and the 80’s-90’s Pistons had Bill Laimbeer. Each of these teams (save the Bulls) had a dominant center and/or power forward. Teams without such an big man either didn’t make the finals or came up short against those dominant athletes.

The current favorites in the league all have smaller athletes who are the “superstars”, but they also have great players in their front court. The Heat have Chris Bosh. The Bulls have Joachim Noah and Carlos Boozer. The Lakers still have Gasol and Bynum. The Nuggets have Nene. The Thunder have Kendrick Perkins. And the New York Knickerbockers have Tyson Chandler. It is likely that one of these teams will win the NBA finals this year, and those big men in the front court will be one of the biggest reasons why.