Gone But Not Forgotten, Sports File #10: Twin Towers References

What killed it: the attack on the World Trade Center.

(Every Monday, Inhistoric delves into the long-since abandoned aspects of sports that many of us never knew existed, and reexamines them for your reading pleasure. Here's just one example of a part of sports that's no longer with us, for better or worse.)

There was a time when analogizing bigmen in the NBA was easy, particularly if a team had two of them. For a good twenty to thirty years, teams that had a tandem of 7-foot superstars were said to have had "Twin Towers," an obvious reference to the Twin Towers buildings in New York City. Several duos bore the nickname from the 1970's to the late 90's, most notably Ralph Sampson and Hakeem Olajuwon of the Houston Rockets in the mid-80's and Tim Duncan and David Robinson in 1999, who won an NBA championship against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. The Twin Towers terminology was so ingrained with the fabric of the NBA that, in hindsight, many of the headlines relating to its usage are more than a little cringe-worthy. A 1987 New York Times article recapping a 125-98 Knicks loss to the Hawks, in which the Knicks' duo of bigmen -- Patrick Ewing and Bill Cartwright -- were shut down was given the unfortunate title: "Twin Towers Reduced to Rubble."

Then, of course, the September 11th terrorist attacks happened, and equating a pair of 7-footers to buildings that no longer existed became awkward, if not slightly insensitive. To say that the term died with the terrorist attacks would be somewhat of an overstatement, since some people still refer to Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol as "Twin Towers." But there's no question that major organizations avoid using the phrase if at all possible, especially compared to the 80's and 90's, when it was used with such ubiquity. Nowadays, it's more common to refer to duos like Bynum and Gasol as "Twin 7-footers," or something along those lines in terms of safeness.

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