“The 6’8″ Jackson’s wingspan was so prodigious that Bill Fitch (Jackson’s coach at the University of North Dakota) would often have him show off to NBA scouts with something called “The Car Trick,” in which Jackson would sit in middle of the back seat of a 1950s Buick and open both doors simultaneously.”
-Phil Jackson’s official Bio
Length… Sometimes referred to as a player’s wingspan or simply stating, “he’s long.” The famous poster of Jordan’s life size image with reaching “wings” while palming a ball comes to mind.
It’s the distance from the tip of the right middle finger, across and over the barrel of the chest, to the tip of the digits on the left.
Like Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man, most of us are square, symmetrical. Our wings comparatively clipped and matching the distance from the bottom of our feet to the top of our head. Embodying the architect Vitruvius’ idea that we were a walking 1 to 1 ratio.
“We found the proportion of Height to Wingspan to be 1.023 which is within 2.3% error of the established value of 1. The one-sample T-test concluded that there is not enough evidence to say the proportion is not 1.”
-Size of a Human: Body Proportions, The Physics Hypertext book
In his own lanky form, it seems Jackson would start to create a prototype of a defensive player. Of course coaches have always coveted length in players, but for Phil and consequently the Lakers, it now seems firmly ensconced as an organizational philosophy.
A philosophy that would begin with Phil himself and solidify in the 7 foot long outstretched arms of Scottie Pippen. The Bulls’ defense would be predicated on his quickness coupled with length.
The commitment to fielding a front court founded on length would be undeniable after the 2004 Finals, when one Kobe Bryant was single covered by Pterodactylean ridiculousness.
“Kobe had a hard time shooting over Prince,” Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said afterward. “I’ve never played against somebody that long before,” Bryant said.
–Felix Gillette, Slate magazine, discussing the 2004 Finals and praising of the “lanky brilliance” of Tayshaun Prince.
(Gilette would also invoke Leonardo and Vitruvius and quote a study in the Journal Biometrika,“Only 9 percent of adult males have wingspans that exceed their heights by more than about 2 inches.”)
So when we see… Good close outs on three point shooters…rebounds kept alive by tips leading to second chance points…passing lanes being filled properly in the strong side zone preventing the skip pass…fronting the post effectively…altered or blocked shots…fundamental stay on the floor go straight up defense…say it along with Joel Myers…“The Lakers length is once again a factor .”
“The team is neither soft, nor scared of physicality, it’s just a little light in the pants. This is why our speed and length will be so important. What we lack in girth (not physicality) will be made up in speed and length, allowing us to choke off angles and get into passing lanes.”
“The ball is just calling my name…I just go after it.”
“He’s a legitimate, 7-1, long-wing-span, natural shot blocker, so add Andrew, it takes us to another level defensively.”
You can’t teach length, but you can draft and trade for it.
-Scott Thompson aka Gatinho