To Kuhn, Nelson would represent one of those intellectu…

To Kuhn, Nelson would represent one of those intellectual anomalies, and an incredibly persistent one. During his 31 seasons on the sideline, Nellie repeatedly questioned basic basketball assumptions. To win you need a big man on the block. Centers should stay in the paint. Players need to fit rigid positions. As Nelson once explained to the San Francisco Chronicle: “I had spent my whole life asking: ‘Why are point guards expected to only pass, why are small forwards expected to only score and why are centers expected to only post up?’” For his efforts, Nelson was alternately celebrated and derided. “Mad scientist” is both a pejorative and a compliment, after all. When Nellie gave Manute Bol the green light to shoot threes in 1988, Bol proceeded to jack up nearly 100 of them; no small feat considering entire teams took less than 250 a season back then. Granted, Bol only made 20, but he appreciated the concept, even if others didn’t. “Some friends told me that when we play the Lakers, the announcer for L.A. said, ‘Doesn’t Nellie know he shouldn’t shoot that? He has no business shooting from out there,’” Bol told the LA Times in 1989. “But (Nelson) said, ‘If you think it’s a good shot, take it.'”
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