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By Michael Tapia — First they beat the Heat a week ago 93-77 now, they beat the Lakers 95-92 – can you call them fearless? Yes, we are talking about that small market team in Indiana called the Pacers. Unreal, but coming into the season the Pacers only had one established all-star in their roster and that is Danny Granger. Suddenly, 23-year old center Roy Hibbert started making a name for himself as perhaps the future Shaq of the league.

Hibbert’s 24 points and Granger’s 18 helped topple the Lakers backed by and an amazing 41-point performance by Kobe Bryant on Sunday. How many times can you say you saw Kobe on the losing end after amazing performance? Not too many. For Hibbert and Granger, Sunday’s win over Kobe and the Lakers must be résumé worthy as beating a team like the Lakers at home this season was only accomplished by the Phoenix Suns.

This victory is résumé worthy for so many reasons. Not only are the Lakers one of the deepest teams with players like, Bryant, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Ron Artest but their chemistry is looking more solid than ever this season. Furthermore, we can neglect the amount of experience that these players have compare to Hibbert and Granger. Hibbert is only in his third season in the league and Granger is in his sixth while Bryant, Gasol, Odom and Artest who are in at least their 10th season in the NBA. It is safe to say that it requires a great amount of maturity to defeat a team like the Lakers and Hibbert looked mature beyond his years on Sunday.

Should Hibbert continue posting performances like the one against the Lakers it would not be a surprise to see him in February’s All-Star Game for the first time. At 7’2, 268 lbs he is one of the few legit big men in what is considered a big man’s game. The days of seven footers like Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Dikembe Mutombo etc… have faded. Nowadays teams with a legit seven-foot center are hard to find. Fortunately, for Hibbert his competition, legit big men like Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan are on their last leg.

If Hibbert develops into a perennial all-star, should we expect him to be Dwight Howard’s competition? It seems like Dwight Howard Emeka Okafor, Joakim Noah, Andrew Bynum and Al Jefferson are the future of the league regarding the center position. With only three legit seven-foot centers soon to be left in the league in Bynum, Hibbert and Andrew Bogut, what has happened to the traditional all-star seven feet center we use to see in the NBA? Is Hibbert the last of dying breed, are seven-foot all-stars an extinct species?


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