In an era where every championship contender needs to have at least a couple of prominent long-range shooters, every once in a while Denver’s big man Nikola Jokic spices up his triple-double with a couple of threes. True basketball fans through the decades share the collective memory of the first consistent three-point shooting NBA big man.
Pioneers of that growing trend were legendary 1980s big men Jack Sikma and Bill Laimbeer.
Sikma, decorated seven-time NBA All-Star, averaged 15.6 points and 9.8 boards during his 14-year career while starring for both Seattle and Milwaukee. Sikma also led the League in the free-throw department with a 92.2% accuracy during the 1987-88 NBA season.
The very next season, Sikma bravingly took his shooting game even more far out and raised his shooting skills to a whole new level. Sikma was hitting as many as 82 triples on 38.0 clip for the 1988-89 Milwaukee Bucks team, which, during the postseason run, managed to eliminate high-flying contending Atlanta Hawks but lost the series to an eventual 1989 NBA champion – Detroit Pistons.
Interestingly enough, the postseason series between Milwaukee and Detroit played in early May 1989. featured two of the best known NBA shooting centers of that era in Bucks’ Jack Sikma and Pistons’ Bill Laimbeer, who, to his credit, made 202 threes during his NBA career while also helping to promote the trend of long-distance shooting among NBA big men.
Laimbeer, the veteran center known for his enforcing and defensive style of play on numerous occasions, landed ‘Air Jordan’ has mashed well with his long-distance shooting skills in Chuck Daly’s offensive system. That system emphasized the dribbling and penetrating skills of the All-Star guards Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars.
During the 1989-90 Pistons’ second consecutive championship season, Laimbeer scored a career-high of 57 threes in the regular season and added another 15 in the postseason!
Next season, Sikma, closing out his 14-year NBA career, managed to convert 46 triples on 34.1% shooting. Interestingly enough, he hit 38.0% before the 1991 NBA All-Star weekend in Charlotte and was seriously considered by the League as one of the invitees in the contest, which marked the three-year tenure of the Bulls’ shooting specialist Craig Hodges.
The most recent evidence of Sikma’s shooting proficiency came to the eyes of the public just recently in the form of the video footage from the 1990 Bucks game in San Antonio. In that particular game Sikma, not particularly impressed with the athletic capabilities of the eventual 1994-95 NBA MVP Spurs’ David Robinson, came up with his best shooting performance of the season, converting 6 out of 8 tries behind the NBA three-point line!
Although they are not as athletic and agile as many of today’s centers it would be more than interesting to see how Sikma and even Laimbeer would fare in today’s NBA game, particularly bearing in mind their excellent shooting touch and three-point proficiency.
The game footage of that particular game can be found at the following links:
Murray A. is BN contributor and the author of the book ‘Drazen – The Years of the Dragon’ which can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Drazen-Years-Dragon-untold-story/dp/1983545902/