In Little-Man Era, Four Big Men Will Test Their Skills

Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) will be one of four big men competing in the Skills Challenge this All-Star weekend.

Tyler Kaufman/Associated Press

In the early days of the N.B.A., big men ruled the league. Giants with names like Mikan, Russell and Chamberlain dominated the paint, leaving smaller players to scrap for tougher shots outside.

That era is long gone. For most of this century, pro basketball’s brightest stars have been those who can play the little man’s game.

Stephen Curry, last season’s most valuable player and a favorite to win the award again this season, is so slight that it is hard to believe he is 6 feet 3. LeBron James and Kevin Durant are hybrids, as likely to use finesse to score as they are to use their power or height. No traditional forward or center has been the M.V.P. since Tim Duncan was chosen more than a decade ago. Back-to-the-basket frontcourt brawlers are nearly extinct, and small ball has never been more in…

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