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Friday, December 26, 2008

The Big Question

Posted by Tariq al Haydar

by Tariq al Haydar

Where does Shaquille O'Neal stand?

Shaq has something I would like to possess: The ability to retire. Imagine how cool it would be to quit your job and do nothing but watch movies in your 50-seat home theater. But let's go back...

For many years he wept on the nights he got swept. More than a decade ago, he didn't have the wisdom to to step to Hakim. When he bolted, Pennyless, to the city of dreams, they said he didn't want to win. It might seem strange in retrospect, but, for years, he was slept on.

But then he wrecked Pippen's solo career and beat Reggie in the Finals. Shaq joined Mikan, Kareem and Magic, who all had banners hanging in the rafters. The year after, he only allowed one playoff game to go unAnswered. And then, against the Nets, he was the one who swept.

And then the empire crumbled.

The Man With No Name remained, but Big moved from the Left Coast to South Beach. For a minute they said a fourth ring was out of his reach, but he supported Wade, and in the end they prevailed.

And now he's winding down in Arizona.

So where does he stand?

And all this got me thinking: You know what? I wouldn't trade places with Shaq. I know he's rich and famous, and I know he's set for life, but I don't know whether or not he's happy. I am. What I do know is this: Shaquille O'Neal is the best center ever. Right?


B. Long said...

Hakeem is the only other guy in the conversation, after that it's not even close.

Justin Walsh said...

Hakeem, Shaq, Kareem, Wilt. Only people I consider for top Center ever.

Moose said...

Guys, hold on. I know the league wasn't as competitive and all, but how could you guys in any way leave off Bill Russell??? ELEVEN championships. FIVE MVPs. 21,620 career boards (and in the beginning of his career they didn't even count offensive). Eight championships in a row. Bill Russell very well could be the best, even when the game wasn't as competitive. And he was only 6'9", so he fit in (pun intended) with the rest of the league's big men. How could you guys forget him? I need some reasons.

B. Long said...

You gave the reason in your first sentence, Moose. The League had Bill and Wilt and that was about it. If you compared those guys to todays atheletes in the league they'd be average at best. Even Kareem said that he didn't think their was anyway he could stop Shaq if they both played against each other in their prime. Shaq scared an entire generation of 7-footers out of playing the Center position. He's why when Kevin, Tim, and Jermaine came in the league they were listed as"power forwards".

Moose said...

You say that Bill and Wilt were the only guys in the league . . . then how can you exclude Russell if you include Wilt? Wilt and TWO championships, Russell had ELEVEN. In my opinion, Russell>Wilt. So if Wilt is in it, Russell should be in the discussion as well. And B--check your email.

Moose said...

Nevermind on that last part . . .

AR said...

I tend not to get into all time arguments,being 12 years old and everything.So the only people I can really pass any judgement on(and just barely) would be Hakeem and Shaq.

And I'd consider Hakeem the better player,but would put Shaq higher on my all time list if I were to make one.

All time lists are great for not making sense.

Eboy said...

For a brief moment I thought that Tariq was kidding in his last sentence.....then I realized he wasn't.

While it's safe to say that Shaq is probably (PROBABLY) one of the five greatest centers of all time, as Justin wrote, Hakeem, Kareem, Wilt and Russell all have a spot in that top 5 too. All won rings, all were great defenders, only one of them (Russell) wasn't an offensive juggernaut, and all had that certain "it" factor. So did (does) the Daddy. But to put him at the TOP of the list of the five of them is a little miscalculated.

B. Long made the point of "Shaq scared guys into playing other positions". That's true and part of his problem. During his heyday, there was only one other legit center that faced up with him (Hakeem) and wasn't afraid. Is that a similar set of circumstances than what Wilt faced while he had his historic battles with only one true deterrant in Russell. I think so.

Do you call The Robot a Center/PF? Probably not (although he has the exact skill set of a traditonal center). If you did, where would he fall? He's equal to Shaq in titles and stands strong as the leader of a squad for a decade. How do they compare?

Yao? Da Howitzer? Not quite and every one else in the game today is not in the same category as Shaq as in his prime, so the modern game is not even in the equation.

Some say if Patrick Ewing would have gotten a couple of titles he would have been in the same talks, yet he happened to be in the league when Michael ran things and never had the opportunity.

Hakeem only won while Mike was away playing pepper, so do his titles deserve some form of an asterick? Probably, but that's a topic for another discussion and makes you wonder just how dominant he really was. Shaq had the more dominant career.....Hakeem had one dominant Finals....kind of lopsided in Shaq's favor if you ask me.

If I was taking one center for a single game and had to pick, I'm going with Kareem. He was a bad, bad man.....and not the 2nd banana to Magic's front runner that NBATV's Greatest Games of the 80's make's him out to be.
He was indefensible in his prime and played hard, solid defense also. Shaq would have got his, but wouldn't have had the defensive stamina to shut The Captain down for a game. Wouldn't happen.

Moose said...

AR, you're 12? No you're not, right? . . . especially because on my last Hibachi post you said that you were my dimensions when you were 13 . . . hmmm. Typo?

Hursty said...

Sarcasm Moose.
Does David Robinson fit anywhere around those guys? A distant 6th man?
What about Chris Mihm- that dude can flat out ball!
Hakeem is no.1 imo (but I'm a *little* biased. Shaq is 2.
ps- Oscar Robertson would fuck the majority of guys up even today, just sayin...

Tariq al Hayder said...


First off, I'm not completely sold on Shaq being the undisputed #1 center of all time, hence the "right?" with which I ended my piece. That being said, the limited information I have concerning Russell and Wilt notwithstanding, if the two of us were to pick five-on-five squads to play for a million bucks, I would take an in-his-prime Shaq over ANYONE else in the history of the NBA except Jordan.

Secondly, Shaq is PROBABLY one of the top 5 centers all-time?????? C'mon man.

My favorite center of all time is Hakeem Olajuwon. I love the guy. I love everything about him. In fact, he's my favorite PLAYER of all time. But even I have to concede that Shaq (in his Laker prime, not in his Orlando days) is clearly the better player. I don't even think it's disputable.

Kareem, Wilt and Russell. Those are the only three centers that are ARGUABLY on Shaq's level. Hakeem is #4. After that you've got a host of others vying for that 5 spot: Mikan, Robinson, Moses, Ewing...etc.


In this order - Bill Russel(11 Rings = total domination) , Wilt Chamberlin (100 Points but Bill always beat him), Shaq (2nd GOAT but not GOAT at Center), Hakeem/David Robinson/Patrick Ewing (They are all equal, none is CLEARLY better, slightly better is just a matter of opinon), Kareem (all time bucket droppin leader), Willis Reed (Cripple leading Knicks to the finals), Moses Malone (A BEAST), Nate Thurmond (First ever quad double), Robert Parish (Celtics corner stone for Larry Bird Era), Deke (for the Finger wag/the Denver Nuggets HUGE upset) and maybe one day Yao Ming (MAYBE is a key word)

Tariq al Hayder said...


I can confidently say that Hakeem is CLEARLY superior to both Ewing and the Admiral for two reasons:

1- Hakeem is superior to Ewing because he has two rings, one of which he won against Ewing in the 94 Finals.

2- Hakeem is even more superior to David Robinson because he COMPLETELY dominated him in the 1995 WCF. I mean, he just OWNED him. It wasn't like the Dominique/Bird duel. It was a massacre.

B. Long said...


Hursty said...

Hakeem is the man!... apparently. I have the clutch city dvd's of the repeat in 94/5... just got the Celtics 08 Championship DVD. Its sweet.
Has gm 7 in the cavs series and all 4 wins in the finals. Thats it though.

Justin Walsh said...

You have to think about how much "He's got rings as a reason for best center" Fuck that, if we go by that logic, Robert Horry is better than Michael Jordan. Ewing is less than Hakeem, not because of an issue with rings, but because Ewing didn't have the immense moves, counter moves and third reaction moves in the post that Hakeem had. David Robinson isn't as talented as Hakeem because of the same reasons. I don't include Bill "Mr. Rings" into the top 5 discussion because, we talk about Bill always beating Wilt in games, but we don't enter into the discussion that in Bill Russell's playing career, a slew of hall of famers on the roster (His rookie year contained 6 HOF's in fact). I would name all of the HOF players Russell played with over HIS ENTIRE CAREER, but if you know basketball, I don't have to. Wilt Chamberlain only played with multiple HOF players for the LAKERS, which was WAY after his prime, and at that point he did get a ring. Want more breakdown of Russell vs. Wilt? If Russell was the greatest defensive player ever (and he was), in regular season games, Chamberlain averaged 25.7 points and 28 rebounds to Russell's 14.9 points and 24.7 rebounds. And rebounding is where Russell supposedly owned the advantage. Sometimes he did- but the single-game NBA record for rebounds is 55- a record Wilt set in a game against Russell. I know Boston fans will vilify me, and I'm okay with it. This is not me being a Lakers fan. Bill Russell is a better winner, but not because of pure talent or dominance, the Boston Celtics merely had more talent in the "Red" days Hall of famer wise than all teams in the NBA right now. Add up every single active player who is a shoe in for the HOF. How many do you get? Well, sure fire no matter what HOF players are these dudes- Shaq, Duncan, Kobe, AI,Jason Kidd, Kevin Garnett. That's 6 names for SURE FIRE, nobody can stop them HOF worthy. That's how many Russell had on his FIRST Celtics squad. That's the entire league folks! We can talk semantics about some of the young players getting into the HOF, but until some of these players hit about 8-10 seasons, I'm not going to go all HOF happy with it. So That's my FULL reasoning for not including Russell into the most dominant Center ever. Not top 4 at least. Like I said, Shaq, then Hakeem, Then Kareem, then Wilt. Russell is top 10, but IDK who I put ahead or behind him 5-7 range is where I have Bill. There we go. The most in depth reason I can think of.

Hursty said...


Anonymous said...

Definitely best center ever. Him and Kareem. (This coming from a celtic fan)

Hey EBOY they have a great heat article on how they came together in that last game vs Orlando, the dude wrote a couple other great HEAT articles too


I thought youd really enjoy that

As for centers:

4)Moses Malone

Duncan is top-5 if you consider him a center.

(I dont go back to Wilt/Bill days cuz im only 38 years old and couldnt be fair/real about the argument for and against them.... I also dont include great active centers that have a long way to go like Dwight and Yao)