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The blocked shot is a lost art

It seems crazy, but people actually used to be known for their blocked shots. Dikembe Mutombo finger-wagged his way to a brand with rejections.

Mark Eaton lives on through this stand still block:

Manute Bol once averaged five per game. Hakeem could swat with the best of them.

In the department of Not That Long Ago, Roy Hibbert made an All-Star career out of patrolling the paint, before the long distance police turned him into a Hibbe-saurus.

The shot block, in 2019-20, though, is a lost art.

QUICK: Who leads the NBA this season in blocks?

You have no idea, and that’s ok. (It’s Orlando’s Jonathan Isaac, with 2.8.)

The graph above shows the decline in individual blocks per game over the last two-plus decades. In 1995-96, Mutombo’s 4.5 were tops. Three others averaged three or more. In 2019-20, some guy with two first names leads the league.

And it isn't some mystery as to why.

It’s those damn 3-pointers. Like urban renewal in Boston in the 1950s, the spike in 3s has dragged the action from a congested lane to more wide-open pastures.

The numbers:

  • 3-pointers taken in ‘95-‘96, league average: 16 per game

  • 3-pointers taken in ‘19-‘20, league average: 33.7 per game

In 1995, someone like Karl-Anthony Towns might have been among the league leaders in blocks. In 2019, he averages 1.3 blocks per game and 8.5 3s per game.


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