Shaquille O’Neal announced his retirement two days ago via twitter(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETW-gjZlIE0) and it brings a hall of fame career to a end. I remember watching him , Chris Jackson(later changed his name to Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf), and Stanley Roberts playing together during the 89-90 season in the SEC and raising hell. I had never seen a man his size run, jump, and show the agility that he displayed. I’m 30 years old and I never had a chance to watch Wilt Chamberlain play, but I’m from Philly, Pa and I grew up hearing the stories from the oldheads about how dominant he was and the type of athlete he was as well.
This brings up a great topic to debate: Where would you place Shaq on the list of the NBA’s all time centers? It’s a great barber shop discussion and I look forward to bringing it up this weekend when I go get a fresh baldy and beard. Here is my top 5 list and why I put them in the order I have.
1. Wilt Chamberlain 7’1″ 275lbs
career stats: 14 seasons 30.1 ppg, 23 rpg, 4.4 apg, 46 mpg
The numbers speak for themselves and he played in an era against some of Hall of Famer players like Bill Russell, Nate Thurmond, and Walt Bellamy. Do your homework people. At his size the play 46 minutes a game for his career is downright unheard of. He was a great track and field athlete in high school and while in college at Kansas as well. Bottom line is he would have dominated in any era of basketball. And we don’t know how many blocks he had because they weren’t kept during his career. The man averaged 50 ppg and 25.7 rpg for a damn season….lol.
2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 7’2′ 230lbs
career stats: 20 seasons 24.6 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 2.6 bpg
This man doesn’t get the respect he deserves as a player by most, but he’s the NBA’s all time leading scorer. And in the fact that he dominated the league in the 70’s and 80’s, winning 6 MVP awards, 2 Finals MVP’s and he was a 19 time All-Star. He led the Milwaukee Bucks to a NBA title in just his second season and won the regular season MVP and Finals MVP during that season. Played against Chamberlain, Walton, Thurmond, Unseld, Reed, Sikma, Gilmore,Lanier and Parrish during his great career and was flat out dominant. Oh yeah, can’t forget about the most unstoppable shot in NBA history: The sky hook.
3. Bill Russell 6’9′ 215lbs
career stats: 15.1 ppg, 22.5 rpg, 4.3 apg, 11 NBA titles in 13 seasons
The man has more NBA titles then rings and was the best defensive big man arguably to play basketball. He anchored a Celtics team with 4 other hall of famers as teammates and Don Nelson was quoted as saying about Russell: “There are two types of superstars. One makes himself look good at the expense of the other guys on the floor. But there’s another type who makes the players around him look better than they are, and that’s the type Russell was.” He won 5 MVP awards during his career as well. I know I might catch hell from basketball fans of an older age for putting Jabbar second, but in my eyes Jabbar was a better player. Russell shooting 44% from the field for his career playing center and 15 ppg per game puts him right below Kareem in the 3rd spot.
4.Hakeem Olajuwon 7’0′ 255lbs
career stats: 18 seasons 21.8 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 3.1 bpg, 1.7 spg
The Dream was the best center in basketball during the prime of his NBA Career. He had it all in his game, the hook shots, drop steps, turnaround jumper, the mid-range jumpshot and you could could argue him as the best defensive center to play basketball between he and Russell. Hakeem is the only player in NBA history to have over 3000 blocks and 2000 steals in a career, won back to back defensive player of the year awards, and was a 9 time All NBA Defensive player. He won back to back titles in 94 and 95, thrashing the NBA’s best centers(Robinson, Ewing, and Shaq) in the playoffs during that two year run. During the 93-94 season he won the defensive player of the year, regular season MVP and the Finals MVP.
5.Shaquille O’Neal 7’1 325lbs
career stats: 19 seasons, 23.7 ppg, 11 rpg, 2.3 bpg
Shaq was simply one of the most dominant forces in sports the last 20 years. The NBA hadn’t seen a man of his size and strength, to go along with speed and agility since Wilt Chamberlain. He came in the league in 1992 and went toe to toe with the NBA’s great centers(Hakeem, Robinson, and Ewing) while they were all in their primes and was just as good and or better. He went to the finals against the Rockets in just his 3rd season in the league but was schooled by Olajuwon badly. He later was traded to the Lakers and won three straight titles from 00-02. He later won another title playing with D-Wade and the Miami Heat in 2006. I have him 5th because while he dominated the league it was during an era where the greats he played against earlier where well past their primes and his competition wasn’t that great. I also believe he could have been a better defensive player as well.