Blog Entry

Where does Shaq fit alongside the all-time bigs?

Posted on: June 1, 2011 4:51 pm
Edited on: June 2, 2011 5:56 am
 
Posted by Royce Young



Any time one of the great players announce their retirement, it immediately becomes the task of people like me, fans and everyone else to start deciding where that player fits in the pantheon of their sport. How lasting is their legacy? How great were they really?

And, with Shaquille O'Neal hanging up the size 23's after 19 seasons, it must be asked: Where does he stand alongside the all-time big man greats?

Let's look at Shaq's resume: He averaged 23.7 points, 10.9 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. He scored a total of 28,596 points which ranks him fifth all-time. He grabbed 13,099 rebounds, which puts him 13th all-time. He won four championships, played in five NBA Finals, won one MVP, three Finals MVPs, three All-Star Game MVPs, played in 15 All-Star games, won two scoring titles, was named to first-team All-NBA eight times and maybe had the greatest personality of any NBA star ever.

Pretty good resume, I'd say. Shaq's career was watered down toward the end as he finished out with a bit of a whimper his last three seasons playing in Phoenix, Cleveland and Boston. That has sort of has made people forget what a truly dominant big man he was. In back to back playoffs, Shaq averaged 30-15. That's pretty much unheard of and yet Shaq did it without much issue.

In terms of pure statistics, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are better. But comparing eras in basketball is extremely difficult because of the competition players faced, the style of play and the way the game was called. Is Shaq better than Wilt? Hard to say. (Don't ask Scottie Pippen -- he'll say Dwight Howard is. And then Kareem will yell at us.)

Shaq: The Legacy
Stats (All-Time List)
  • Games: 1,207 (23rd)
  • Minutes: 41,918 (17th)
  • Points: 28,596 (5th)
  • Rebounds: 13,099 (12th)
  • Blocks: 2,732 (7th)
Accomplishments
  • First overall pick, 1992 Draft
  • Rookie of the Year, 1992-93
  • NBA MVP, 1999-00
  • Four NBA Championships
  • 15-time NBA All-Star
  • 3-time NBA Finals MVP
  • 2-time NBA Scoring Champion
  • Career Salary: $292,198,327
But there's absolutely no doubt whatsoever that in terms of the most elite big men to ever play, Shaq stands tall right alongside them. I like defining greatness in terms of dominance. And for more than a decade, Shaq dominated unlike any center we've seen in the modern era. His game wasn't pretty. He used brute strength and size to overpower smaller defenders. He shot horribly from the free throw line. He never scored outside of the paint. He wasn't so much a basketball player as he was an offensive lineman with nifty feet and a soft touch at the rim.

And no one could stop him. As much as Shaq used raw power to beat opponents which bordered on what was legal, he also took a beating on the block every night. He's probably the most difficult player ever to officiate and nightly he was hacked, grabbed and fouled hard. His weakness was the second easiest shot in basketball -- a wide open look straight on from 15 feet away -- and yet he only sunk free throws 52.7 percent of the time.

Is he better than Wilt, Russell, Kareem or other big men you want to bring into the mix? I don't really know. Contrasting what someone accomplished in 1962 is difficult to do with 2002. What we do know for sure is that Shaq, for a time, was the most physically dominant player in basketball. Gameplanning for him was impossible. Figuring out any way to stop or slow him down didn't happen. He got what he wanted, when he wanted.

Rank all you want. If someone said they were going to hit me in the face with a claw hammer if I didn't, I'd probably put Shaq third behind Russell and Chamberlain, but that's just because that seems to be the consensus. Though, maybe we'll reconsider once we get away from Shaq's career a bit, and let it all sink in. Maybe time will help us forget about the sad ending in Cleveland and Boston.

It's unlikely, though, and here's why: There are some qualms with Shaq's career. It does feel like something was missing. That maybe Shaq could've actually been better than he was. There were so many outside distractions -- acting, rapping, police work, making up nicknames, pop culture icon, reality TV star -- that Shaq probably sacrificed a little greatness and a little of his on-court legacy for all of that.

Would he have it any other way? Probably not. He had the career he wanted, won titles, dominated games and had a ton of fun doing it. He probably had an opportunity to win even more and really cement his place at, maybe the top of any list, but he picked another path. And I don't think we should blame him for it.

Shaq certainly had a career that will stand the test of time. He was bigger than the game. Nobody owned the league, media, fans and everything else quite like Shaq. He called himself Superman and there's no doubt, he played like him too.

He's not the greatest center ever, but he certainly was great. He wasn't the Most Dominant Ever like he dubbed himself, but dominate, he did. All of that stuff never seemed all that important to Shaq, which is what made him so relatable. He wasn't the near psychotic killing machine like Michael Jordan. He was more Magic Johnson -- fun, crazy, outgoing and still very awesome at basketball.

Category: NBA
Comments

Since: Aug 4, 2008
Posted on: June 4, 2011 6:20 pm
 

Where does Shaq fit alongside the all-time bigs?

Shaq was in deed one of a kind and should be remembered as one of the most dominant players of his era. He did bully his way around the court, could not shoot free throws very good, therefore in that category was a liability to his  team. He did not have a very good outside shot, therefore his percentage should have been extremely high as most of his shots were in the paint .

I very seldom compare players from one era to another because it is not a fair comparison.

I do think that in his prime Russell would have finessed Shaq out of the game on fouls.      

Kareem would have sky hooked him out of his uniform.

Wilt and Shaq I rate about the same, both were liabilities on the free throw line. Wilt played at a time when you could literally knock someone out and would not get hit with a foul. In Shaq’s era if you touched him you might be called for a fragrant foul. A little edge to Wilt for the foul situation

There are a few others that bear mentioning, Robinson (The Admiral) Patrick Ewing, Olajuwon and perhaps Mutombo.

I don’t think Shaq really took his skills seriously until he was personally challenged. then he would play circles around anyone. This was demonstrated by his inability to come to camp in basketball shape. It would take him until around late October or early November to round into basketball shape. Had he came to camp in shape his numbers would have been a lot better over the 19 seasons. Say he was able to score 20 additional points per month immediately after camp then he would have added an additional 4500 point to his point total bringing that total to somewhere in the neighborhood of 33,000 points. That would have placed him 3rd on the all time list ahead of Michael Jordan.

Do the same with the rebounds, the little things are what make the player and become more important as you look back over a career and say what if?

A lot of fans, haters, coaches, players and others will look that way with Shaq’s career and say “What if” I imagine Shaq himself will do the same as he look back at his career and see where he currently stand and where he could have been.

Again as I said in another post, that is water under the bridge an history has been written. No matter the question will always be there.
 
I think I would rate Shaq and his accomplishments below those of Wilt, Kareem and definitively Russell.

Shaq has an excellent personality, popular with the fans, good box office, and gave back to the community, but the one trait lacking was dedication to the game.

“ONE MAN’S OPINION”





Since: Apr 26, 2011
Posted on: June 3, 2011 8:00 am
 

Where does Shaq fit alongside the all-time bigs?

Hakeem made Shaq look like a school boy more than once.  Shaq couldn't compete with him.  Those jump hooks made Shaq wonder if he was playing the same game.  And nobody tops Wilt.  The rule changes they put in to slow him down prove that.  The league and the media actually wanted him to slow down his offense because he was so much better than everyone else.  He deliberately stopped scoring as much because of it.  The 3 second rule was put in to stop him.  They gave Shaq the "Shaq Circle" so he could bull over anyone who happened to be near the basket.  That's still by far the worst rule ever in basketball.  It takes away everything except "get out of my way" offense.  Defense is relegated to "you're not welcome" status.  There's more money in having a big guy score.  They didn't think that when Wilt was averaging 50+ a game.  NO ONE has ever came close to that.  It's probably true that the competition is tougher for big centes now but Wilt played like a power forward when he wanted.  He was a genuine athlete.  Shaq was a force of nature but without the Shaq rules he wouldn't have scored half as much.  Kareem was unstoppable even for Wilt.  I saw him try.  Those two were by far the best.  I'd put centers like Dan Issel ahead of Shaq.  Issel retired as the 3rd leading scorer of all time yet he never gets mentioned because he wasn't flashy enough.  The NBA isn't about basketball.  It's Showtime.  And Shaq was the gorilla exhibit.  I saw Wilt play.  I saw Russel.  Both would have cleaned Shaq's clock in a game of real basketball.  And Kareem was so far above his level it's ridiculous.  Even as an old man Kareem handled Hakeem easily for the 5 years they played at the same time.  And Hakeem handled Shaq.  What's that tell you?



Since: Jan 16, 2007
Posted on: June 2, 2011 4:52 pm
 

Where does Shaq fit alongside the all-time bigs?

During this discussion, I haven't seen a lot of George Mikan mentioned.  If you're going to make a serious list about greatest centers in NBA history, he has to be in the discussion. 

The size of the "paint".  Expanded to its current size because of George Mikan.

Goaltending?  Rules came into play because of George Mikan.

While it's true that you can never truly compare eras, not mentioning the late Minneapolis Lakers center among the best ever destroys all credibility the discussion may have had.



Bravesman
Since: Apr 6, 2010
Posted on: June 2, 2011 2:23 pm
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator




Since: Dec 29, 2009
Posted on: June 2, 2011 1:45 pm
 

Where does Shaq fit alongside the all-time bigs?


pitt99 Thanks for helping make my point.  Shaq had the chance to help win a title, but he was too busy trying to be a rapper & making up gay nicknames.  Drexler was still a superstar... he was at the end of his career but he wasn't old, or even basketball old.  Still... Shaq had a good squad... he had Penny & Nick Anderson... they both were very good players... there's no way Orl should have lost that series.. but Shaq lat Olaj school him.  And further proves my point that he had to run to Kobe to get a title.



Since: Oct 6, 2009
Posted on: June 2, 2011 11:47 am
 

Where does Shaq fit alongside the all-time bigs?

KG and Allen were traded. They weren't free agents.



Since: Oct 14, 2006
Posted on: June 2, 2011 11:35 am
 

Where does Shaq fit alongside the all-time bigs?

Shaq never acheived the level of Abdul Jabbar, Chamberlain or Russell.
Shaquille should never even been mentioned in the same breath with those legends.

He was lazy and petty.
He also bordered on being a buffoon and in my opinion never took his career (playing basketball) seriously. His laziness was so bad that teams instituted a Hack-A-Shaq policy in the fourth quarters because he was such a poor free throw shooter and never made a concerted effort to improve that aspect of his game.

He was fortunate to get a forth ring.
He should definitely thank Dwyane Wade for that ring because Wade pretty much won those finals for the Miami Heat not Shaq.

This guy shouold have ended with more rings than he could count because when he put forth effort he was domiant, but all too often he was just good and not dominant.
19 seasons and he got only 4 titles. That does not sound like someone who really dominated the game to me. He was very good player but by no means a dominant player. He will still get inducted to the Hall of Fame and I don't think anybody can dispute that.

Great points by the way digger51.


I am really confused, Shaq went to 6 NBA finals and walked away with 4 rings. How is that a disappointment? He migh have had more titles if, Nick Anderson could make free throws against the Rockets, If the entire Laker team didn't quit against the Pistons and so on. To say that 4 titles is a disappointment is a disservance to the great players that Shaq played against and dimminshes the role that his teammates had during the games that he played in. What could Shaq do, if Nick Anderson can't make shots or if Penny Hardaway turns the ball over against the Bulls in the ECFs? How is it Shaq's fault that the entire Laker team gave up in the 2004 NBA finals? Shaq did what had to do to help his team win. 

 



Since: Oct 14, 2006
Posted on: June 2, 2011 11:23 am
 

Where does Shaq fit alongside the all-time bigs?

But there's absolutely no doubt whatsoever that in terms of the most elite big men to ever play, Shaq stands tall right alongside them. I like defining greatness in terms of dominance. And for more than a decade, Shaq dominated unlike any center we've seen in the modern era. His game wasn't pretty. He used brute strength and size to overpower smaller defenders. He shot horribly from the free throw line. He never scored outside of the paint. He wasn't so much a basketball player as he was an offensive lineman with nifty feet and a soft touch at the rim.


Boy this is a serious overstatement, Yes Shaq at the beginning of his career with the Magic pretty much ran over opposing defenders, but during the Laker and Heat years, he developed a pretty good hook shot and soft jumper within 5-7 feet. Plus another issue that I have with the author is that Shaq was much more athletic than the author indicated. There were times when Shaq was on the Magic that he led fast breaks and had acrobatic dunks.



Since: Oct 14, 2006
Posted on: June 2, 2011 11:17 am
 

Where does Shaq fit alongside the all-time bigs?

Also, Hakeem had Drexler with him.. who ever that person was that said the Dream did it alone w/o any other superstar.  Not that Kenny Smith was some hack.. but he wasn't a SS... but Drex sure as hell was. 


For one season he had drexler at the end of Drex's career. They beat the Knicks the year before without Drexler. Clide had little to do with that series. Hakeem schooled Shaq in the 1995 finals and if he had a more consistant team in Houston, he probably would have had more than 2 championships. Folks forget that Hakeem was a force during the 86 finals against Boston.



Since: Dec 29, 2009
Posted on: June 2, 2011 10:06 am
 

Where does Shaq fit alongside the all-time bigs?

@  Hey, James was a FA too, and he bolted & all the crap he gets... Shaq was the 1st punk to do this.  Barkley, KG, Allen... all past theeir primes when that went down.  They wanted to finish with a ring, they all tried and went past their primes to do it all on their own.  Shaq was in his prime when he decided that he was too weak to do it on his own.  You proved nothing... before you start complaining about people being clueless, quit being a homer for the Lakers.  Gasol was NOT a superstar... LOL.. that's very funny... next you'll say Fisher & Horry were too.  Didn't see Iverson demand a trade to be able to win his title... he made it to the finals all by himself.  Shaq couldn't... and I was a huge fan of his when he came out of LSU.. but he's just a punk.  He was soo worried about making up a new nickname than trying to win.  You mention Jackson coming back to the team, last time I checked, he didn't make any passes to Kobe?  How many points did Phil score in the playoffs?

Also, Hakeem had Drexler with him.. who ever that person was that said the Dream did it alone w/o any other superstar.  Not that Kenny Smith was some hack.. but he wasn't a SS... but Drex sure as hell was. 


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