It’s pretty easy to write that Dwight Howard is the best center in the NBA. That’s because he is. The same could be said for the second best center in basketball. The recent deal to send Andrew Bynum to Philly, ostensibly in exchange for Howard, answers that one, too. But who is the the next-best center in the NBA? It might come down to Tyson Chandler and Roy Hibbert. Both are 7-footers that can defend the rim. Both played on playoff teams last year where they were integral to their team’s success. Both are also pretty interesting guys.
Rather than go over the debate using mundane analytics that have Bill James disciples frothing at the mouth, let’s compare the two using the time-honored tradition of irrelevant topics. Both Chandler and Hibbert are comparatively close in terms of production from a quantitative standpoint, so any argument is going to have the uncomfortable sheen of subjectivity.
The below topics allow us to have a little more fun and though the answers are entirely fictional, they might help you decide who is better (gosh, we sure hope not).
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1. TENNIS DOUBLES PARTNER
Both Tyson Chandler and Roy Hibbert stand over seven feet tall, but Hibbert has more of a reach with a 7-4 or 7-5 wingspan (Chandler’s is 7-2). This makes protecting the net a bit easier for Hibbert. Tennis isn’t just about reach, but touch as well, and again Hibbert has Chandler beat. He’s averaged more points per game as a pro than Chandler and is more adroit around the basket, with a better touch on his shot then Chandler (who gets the majority of his points on put-backs and lobs for dunks). One would imagine Hibbert’s touch around the hoop translates nicely to tennis, where a drop shot – requiring a good touch with the racket – would come more naturally to him.
Despite Hibbert’s advantages in reach and touch (and the latter doesn’t necessarily translate to the tennis court), Chandler is more athletic than the slower Hibbert, even though Hibbert is dedicated to improving his footwork and overall fitness. Chandler has an advantage in vocal communication as well. The 2012 Defensive Player Of the Year is more active around the court than Hibbert, and he’s always shouting instructions to teammates during pick-and-roll situations. Hibbert averaged more blocks last year than Chandler, but wasn’t nearly as active or vocal on defense, and it showed when DPOY votes were tallied. In tennis when you’re trying to figure out which shots to return and which to leave to your partner, communication is key and the mildly introverted Hibbert isn’t as strong as Chandler on that front.
With all that being said, Hibbert grew up in Queens, and in the Maryland suburbs, where his father tried to get him interested in tennis, then golf and then the piano as a youngster. In fact, Hibbert recently hit the tennis court. The player standing with him in this photo claimed Hibbert was a really nice guy, but “a lot of balls were lost.” Chandler grew up on a farm south of Fresno until he was 10, before moving to San Bernadino for a year then settling in for the rest of his adolescence in Compton, California. You know who else came out of Compton? The Williams sisters. Chandler’s hometown combined with his excellent communication skills, superior athleticism and the black mark on Hibbert’s tennis game from that Instagram photo, gives this to Chandler.
2. VIDEO GAME SKILLS
If you didn’t know, Roy Hibbert loves him some Call of Duty. Here’s what he said about his preferred video game:
“I take it real serious. I have a whole room fully dedicated to playing games. Special chair on the ground with the speakers in it. The whole thing.”
It would appear Hibbert is easily better at Call of Duty, and probably video games in general, as he’s an avid online player and even speaks with gaming professionals. But the creative Dallas Mavericks marketing team at least gave Chandler his own Tyson Chandler’s Punch Out game modeled on the old Mike Tyson’s Punch Out Nintendo game. Chandler isn’t the fighting type on the court and he only lent his image to the campaign, which is null and void now since he’s in a Knicks jersey, so this is still pretty lopsided.
3. INVESTMENT ADVICE
Both big men signed large contracts in the last few years: Chandler signed a contract in the summer of 2011 paying him more than $55 million over four years as the Knicks’ defensive backstop in the paint, and Roy Hibbert signed a contract in July of this year for more than $58 million over four years to remain with his Indiana Pacers. So they’re both financially secure after establishing themselves as two of the best big men in the league.
But do they know what to do with their new money? Hibbert might be a wiz at the stock market – just like he is with Call of Duty – but Chandler recently rang the bell at the NYSE with US Women’s soccer player, Alex Morgan, so he probably rubbed elbows with some of finances’ big guns (not that they’re doing so well these days, but still). Also, due to the fact Chandler lives and plays in the financial capital of the world, New York City, he has a distinct advantage over the Indianapolis-grounded Hibbert. In case you didn’t already know, Indiana is not a hot bed of financial dealing.
4. COMEDIC TIMING
Tyson Chandler has made some television and video appearances, most notably to help his Mavericks teammates read David Letterman’s Top Ten after defeating Miami to win the 2011 NBA title, but he doesn’t have any tried and true parts in a comedy. We’re sure he’s a funny guy, but he’ll have to prove it on a grand stage if he wants to compete against Hibbert.
That’s because Hibbert joined Detlef Schrempf on the NBC comedy Parks and Recreation for the “Ron and Tammys” episode. But Hibbert didn’t stop there. He also appeared in the episode “End of World” showing a deft touch as an actor when Tommy, played by Aziz Ansari, hired him to hand out shrimp at his going-out-of-business party. Since the show is set in the fictional Indiana town of Pawnee, expect to see more of the Pacers big man when they need a low-key celebrity to make a cameo. Hibbert gets even more points for his unabashed love for Pokemon – his high school teammates used to tell him to “power up” before games. We don’t know anything about Pokemon, but that’s pretty hysterical.