Nobody knows for sure, but it is guessed that John Stockton, one of the best passers in the history of the NBA, a point guard who had touch and timing and vision and court awareness and assist accuracy like none other, might have made a great quarterback, had he chosen football over basketball.
The one dissentient factor on that? He was too short.
Ironic it is that an all-time great in a tall man’s game, a player who regularly found passing lanes nobody else saw through and around, under and over sequoias, would be thought of as a tad bit too diminutive.
What’s the measure of a man?
It shouldn’t be his height without shoes on.
But in a lot of cases, it is. Or, at least, it is thought to be.
Stockton was listed at 6-foot-1, and there have been some stellar quarterbacks of that height, but he probably wasn’t really that tall. Under the NBA’s new edict to get the ages and heights of players right and to list them as such, Stockton might have come up a bit shorter. That’s the way it seemed when you stood next to him.
All of which made his achievements even more remarkable.
But this height issue is a sensitive one when it comes to some NBA players, and maybe that’s true with the general public as well. Everyone has run across individuals who stretch the truth. We’ve all known guys who are 5-8 but say they are 5-10. And guys who are 5-10 say they are 6-foot.
Is there some social directive or status or implication among the population that says taller is better, more desirable, more manly? Or is that some concoction of insecure dudes who are trying to compensate for other deficiencies?
I talked to a psychologist on the matter. He said that in our society, being taller is seen by many people as advantageous, as being more virile, more attractive, more successful, more of everything, and that men, especially those who are shorter than the average height of 5-foot-10, feel the effects of all that. That’s why so many lie about their height.
It’s almost like the stated weights on driver’s licenses. If you had five bucks for every extra unaccounted-for pound absent on those licenses, you’d be a billionaire. It’s as though if it’s listed on an official document, it must be true, even if it isn’t.
And still, more irony, some of the most capable people around are on the shorter side.
In sports, the embellishments have their purpose. They could expand the perception of a player’s ability or potential. College media guides are notorious for overcooking the measurements of players, transforming 6-2, 275-pound offensive linemen into 6-4, 300-pounders, and 6-4, 220-pound power forwards into 6-8, 250-pounders. Happens all the time.
“You lose money if you don’t have these inches,” Jazz wing Georges Niang recently told The Tribune’s Julie Jag, as he spiked his hair to add those extras.
Donovan Mitchell, who previously had been listed at 6-3 was measured at just over 6-1 without shoes at the NBA Draft combine.
That might explain the reaction of players like Golden State’s Draymond Green, who was listed at 6-7 before the new measurements came out, when he suddenly shrunk two inches in height. Green subsequently complained, taking to social media to prove or proclaim that, no, he’s actually 6-6. He’d never voiced any opposition to being listed at 6-7, but there was no way on God’s earth he was going to silently stand for being downgraded to 6-5.
In reality, like Stockton, he should be more proud. He’s already financially secure, he’s signed big contracts, he’s got money in the bank, he’s won championships, so the update or downgrade won’t cost him any money. And it makes his accomplishments, especially at the defensive end, that much more impressive, seeing that he can effectively guard players who are considerably bigger than he is.
It goes in both directions.
Some 7-footers haven’t wanted to be listed at that height because they are fearful that if they were, it would somehow diminish the perception, the evaluation of their skills. It might make outsiders think they were a bit too stiff or lurpy. There have been more than a few in that camp, including Kevin Durant, who is as talented a basketball player as there is on the planet, and, yet, he always wanted to be measured a bit shorter than he actually is. Before the adjustments, he was listed at 6-9. After, he is 6-10.
The shoe component to the measurements allows for some leeway. It is said that they add an inch, give or take, but in many instances extra inches were added in alongside. While the NBA now wants a shoeless number, in the past, when in doubt, those with the tape rounded up.
But there’s no need to. In fact, it’s better to just tell the truth. Until he was officially measured, nobody knew precisely how tall Dwight Howard was or is, mostly because it’s difficult to tell the difference between 6-11 (wrong) and 6-9 (right).
But if you’re 5-9, most of us can see that you’re not 6-foot. Stretching the truth about your height doesn’t make you taller, better or sexier, it just makes you a short liar.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 and 1280 The Zone, which is owned by the same parent company that owns the Utah Jazz.