An up-to-date history of the game's big men--not a tall story, merely tedious. Centers on the whole are an introspective, introverted lot who often face sizable problems due to their height, self-consciousness and/or race. Mind you they're not colossal freaks--""Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and--today--most of the men who play professional basketball are inherent, rather than pituitary, giants."" Lofty George Mikan started the pivotal trend which gave rise to Boston's ""defensive genius"" Russell; the Lakers' ""offensive juggernaut"" Wilt-the-Stilt Chamberlain; the Knicks' recently retired ""inspirational leader"" Willis Reed; three-time MVP Kareem Abdul Jabbar (""basketball's most dominating player""); Dave Cowens; Bob Lanier; Bob McAdoo; ""Lord-fearing"" Elvin Hayes; shot-blocking Elmore Smith; and the ABA's Artis Gilmore and Swen Nater. You'll find a chapter on a few of the game's unsuccessful skyscrapers (Gene Wiley and Billy McGill) more engaging than an assessment of last year's rookie crop of Walton, Burleson and Moses Malone. Top-heavy.