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Essay: A Young Relic

Ed note: The following article is specially written by Aaron Kaplan

In a league where Amazing™ can happen any night, anything that isn’t tends to fly under the radar (by “Amazing”, the NBA means “dunks”). Blake Griffin, for example, is taking the league by storm, pounding slams and put-backs in opponents’ faces on a nightly basis.

However, there is another young talent in the same city who puts his stamp on the game in a much more subtle fashion. Andrew Bynum, who came to the NBA out of high school, is in his sixth season—he’s only played one in its entirety—with the LA Lakers. Yet, when healthy, he gives immersed viewers glimpses of greatness that make his chronic knee problems all the more tragic.

Bynum is an old-school center; he is part of a breed of players who are becoming extinct, overshadowed by the wave of the new generation of NBA marketing highlighted by highlights, inundated with the ornate. Bynum, a dominant post presence whose game blends grace and elegance with size and strength, calls to mind greats who captivated the league more than 30 years ago, like a young Alcindor or Walton.

What do these players have in common? They play fundamental, efficient basketball. Defense and rebounding are always a priority, coupled with the touch and finesse to finish around the hoop. Soft touch is something that can’t be taught. Just ask Dwight Howard. You either have it or you don’t. But it can be sharpened and perfected just like anything else with countless hours of practice. Luckily for Bynum, the Lakers hired Kareem Abdul-Jabbar—one of the greatest to ever play the game—to work personally with him on honing his skills.

This season, Bynum is putting up relatively good numbers, averaging just over 10 points and seven rebounds, but his impact in a game while he is on the floor cannot be quantified by stats alone. On defense he changes shots in the paint, taking slashing guards out of their comfort zone, and one could argue his greatest contribution comes on the offensive end; not scoring, but rather rebounding. Offensive rebounds have the power to shift the game’s momentum and deflate the opponent, and when Bynum is on he is unstoppable.

Forget Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum is the X-Factor for the Lakers. He is the 5-Hour Energy to the Lakers’ 2:30 feeling. He is the key for them making a run in the playoffs and stopping Boston from getting that 18th banner.

That is…if he can stay healthy.

 

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