Casual basketball observers, and even those who watch the game religiously, generally point out how today's players are "bigger, stronger and faster" than players of yesteryear. One thing they clearly are not is taller. I've been interested in it for awhile now, the more starting centers I see who are not 7'0 tall. So I actually researched the topic and found some startling evidence justifying my point.
I took the 1989-90 season in which there were 27 teams. Of the 27 teams, only 6 teams had starting centers 6'10 and shorter. They were the Kings (Wayman Tisdale at 6'9), the Sonics (Michael Cage at 6'9) the Hornets (Armen Gilliam at 6'9), the Bullets (Charles Jones at 6'9), the Magic (Sidney Green at 6'9) and the Hawks (Moses Malone at 6'10). Check out the other starters of the other teams, with their heights:
76ers- Mike G'minksi (6'11)
Celtics- Robert Parish (7'0)
Knicks- Patrick Ewing (7'0)
Heat- Rony Seikaly (6'11)
Nets- Sam Bowie (7'1)
Pistons- Bill Laimbeer (6'11)
Bulls- Bill Cartwright (7'1)
Bucks- Jack Sikma (6'11)
Pacers- Rik Smits (7'4)
Cavs- Brad Daugherty (7'0)
Spurs- David Robinson (7'1)
Jazz- Mark Eaton (7'4)
Mavs- James Donaldson (7'2)
Nuggets-Blair Rassmussen & Joe Barry Carroll (each 7'0)
Rockets- Hakeem Olajuwon (7'0)
T-Wolves- Randy Breuer (7'3)
Lakers- Mychael Thompson (6'11)
Blazers- Kevin Duckworth (7'0)
Suns- Mark West (6'11)
Warriors- Manute Bol and Uwe Blab (7'7 & 7'1)
Clippers- Benoit Benjamin (7'0)
Compare that with the start of this season and the centers that started. Kendrick Perkins is "generously" announced as 6'11 but it's obvious he's barely 6'10 (look at the team photo he's slightly taller than Scalabrine). Amare Stoudamire is 6'9. Duncan still considers himself a power forward so by default count 6'8 Matt Bonner for the Spurs. Dwight Howard is considered large and in charge and is all of 6'11.
Basically off the top of my head the only legit 7'0 starting centers I can think of are Yao, Shaq, Chandler, Bynum, Haywood, Lopez, Bogut, Kaman, and Marc Gasol. I'm probably missing a couple more but still- what are we talking maybe 12 or 13 at the most? With all the "global expansion" of imported talent, there's less 7 footers than there were 20 years ago? What gives?
People can blame the league expanding to 30 teams for the lack of talent (I do it all the time). But you can't blame it for not making players as imposing as they once were. So next time you argue with someone about today's players being "bigger," recognize that today's centers stack pretty short in comparison to their predecessors.