9.10.2008

The Heart of Rebounding

Part 3

Great rebounders don't have to be as big as Chamberlain, a muscular 7 feet 1. In rebounding, desire, instinct, work ethic and passion can overcome an opponent's physical advantage.

Rodman is well on his way to his third consecutive NBA rebounding title, averaging 18 a game. Anyway you color his hair, he out-rebounds all the big men in the NBA, including his teammate, 7-foot-1 David Robinson.

Charles Barkley will tell you he is only 6 feet 4, but he is averaging 12 rebounds a game, sixth in the league, for the Suns. He led the NBA in rebounding in 1986-87, averaging 14.6.

How do Rodman and Barkley do it? How did Jerry Lucas, who is 6-8, accumulate the 10th-highest rebounding total in NBA history? How did Wes Unseld, dubiously billed as 6-7, reach eighth? College coaches preach the importance of knowing where a missed shot will fall, but by the time you get to the NBA, everybody knows most shots from one side -- anywhere from seven to nine out of 10 -- will rebound long to the opposite side.

"Great rebounders don't have to think about it; it's instinctive," Williams says. "You don't sit around with a calculator to figure out where the ball is going to go."

The Net's Derrick Coleman, who acknowledges his long arms are a plus, says rebounding "is something I don't really work that hard at. My rebounding is instinctive. I've always had it. I was born with it. It's just a gift."

George Karl, the coach of the SuperSonics, says, "I think it's the hardest fundamental to coach, because you can talk about box-outs, about pivoting and strength, all the things coaches talk about, but as coaches we see it more as an instinctive talent. There are players who have it and players who don't."

Elgin Baylor, a Hall of Fame player who is now general manager of the Clippers, says, "Rebounders have a knack of knowing where the ball is. You're born with it. You can take young kids together on a court who never had played basketball. There'll always be a couple kids able to do different things. There'll be somebody who can rebound. It's God-given.

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