Sports Outside the Beltway

Greatest NBA Centers Ever

For Shaq’s 35th Birthday ESPN saw fit to rank the top 10 centers of all time and I can’t disagree with #1 at all.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

As for his achievements: 1967-68 USBWA College Player of the Year; 1969 Naismith Award; Six-time NBA MVP; Six-time NBA Champion; Two-time Finals MVP; NBA Rookie of the Year (1970); and NBA Hall of Fame (1995).

Like no other player, Abdul-Jabbar embodied the maestro team brilliance of Bill Russell and the individual excellence of Wilt Chamberlain. His NBA cup runneth over: six championships, a record six MVPs and a Finals MVP award … at 38 years old!

Possessed the single most unstoppable shot in NBA history — the sky hook — but more than that, he was clutch, consistent and underrated in the toughness department.

He was the starting center on six championship teams and had the presence of mind to cohabitate with stars like Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson and James Worthy.

He’s the all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points; was named to the All-NBA Defensive team 11 times; and is the only modern era player to lead the league at least once in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots, minutes played, field-goal percentage and PER.

However, in their explanation of choosing Kareem as #1 I believe they left out on of the most amazing things about Kareem’s career. His expected arrival in the college ranks led to directly to a preemptive rule change by NCAA when they banned the dunk after the 1967 season and reinstated it shortly after his departure from UCLA. No other player that I can think of recieved the same treatment. While the rule was made mostly to limit his size advantage, it didn’t slow Kareem down as UCLA went 88-2 while he was a player.

The other thing to ponder about this list would is where Bill Walton would be if he hadn’t the chronic injury problems.

As for the complete list:
1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
2. Wilt Chamberlain
3. Bill Russell
4. Shaquille O’Neal
5. Hakeem Olajuwon
6. Moses Malone
7. Bill Walton
8. David Robinson
9. George Mikan
10. Patrick Ewing

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Wilt Chamberlain’s dominance prompted several NBA rule changes, including the widening of the lane and introducing offensive goaltending.

Posted by Mark | March 7, 2007 | 02:19 pm | Permalink

I can give you that, but the rules carried on from that point forward and affected all players. The dunk rule was only in effect for the 3 seasons Kareem played and never affected any dunkers before or after him.

Posted by Mister Biggs | March 7, 2007 | 02:48 pm | Permalink

The NCAA no-dunk rule was in affect in 1967 and was not repealed until 1976.

Posted by Mark | March 7, 2007 | 03:14 pm | Permalink

The best of all time is in your picture, but it ain’t Kareem. #5 on the all-time list may be less heralded, but he’s still probably the greatest all-around in my book (combining offensive, defensive and rebounding skills). These arguments are subjective of course, but Olajuwon (a soccer player until he came to the US) could affect the game on both ends of the floor in a way that few others could.

Even if you put Kareem and Wilt ahead of him — and you can if you go purely to statistics compiled over long careers including years in which there were only a couple of big centers in the league — there’s NO WAY that Olajuwon falls below Shaq on ANY list. That’s just wickedly idiotic. Does noone recall the Magic/Rockets championship series? That’s clearly a head to head matchup in which Shaq got schooled by the MVP.

This is why I hate stupid lists. Because people who have no idea what they’re talking about have the power to compile them.

Posted by chris | March 8, 2007 | 09:25 am | Permalink

Mark, you right that it did exist for some more seasons of UCLA’s dominance of college basketball. The main thing about it that I was attempting to highlight was while Wilt’s play caused rule changes, Kareem’s expected arrival prompted a preemptive rule change.

Chris, yes Shaq is over ranked. Living in LA a fat, lazy Shaq was almost expected during the regular season anything else was a suprise. As far as stupid people compiling list, what are you trying to say about ESPN? Next you are gonna tell me they have a East Coast Bias in their sports.

Posted by Mister Biggs | March 8, 2007 | 10:39 am | Permalink

Kareem was the right pick for number one center. I like Russel over Wilt. I beleive Willis Reed belongs on this list ahead of Ewing. I also agree that if it were not for all of Waltons foot problems, he would be in the top four and not Shaq. Walton and Hakeem were the most all around centers to play in the NBA. Russel was the greatest floor leader and the greatest team player. Wilt and Kareem were the most talented, but Kareem had the better all around game. Wilt and shaq the most powerfull, but Shaq has the more Championships. Wilt played opposite better centers then Shaq. Kareem played opposite even more great centers. We all most remember that Molone played pick up games with Hakeem and that helped Hakeem become a better center.

Posted by J.E.Smith | March 23, 2007 | 11:46 pm | Permalink

I’m offended to find Shaquille O’Neal listed ahead of Hakeem Olajuwon. As players, the two centers are polar opposites. O’Neal’s approach was simple — he was the biggest kid on the playground & few could stop him. Does anyone remember the 1995 NBA championship series? Olajuwon did an outstanding job of outplaying O’Neal, showing that size alone will not win you a ring. But I digress…..
In his prime, Olajuwon had it all — size, strength, agility, and eye popping athleticism. It’s hard to put Olajuwon ahead of the game’s all time leading scorer, but he definitely belongs on an even level with Chamberlain & Russell. Olajuwon played in a different era than Chamberlain & Russell. It can be argued that there were fewer truly dominant big men in the 1980′s & 1990′s, but I’d disagree (that would be a slap in the face to the likes of Ewing, Robinson, Abdul – Jabbar, Mourning,& O’Neal), but it cannot be denied that the competition Olajuwon faced on a night in, night out basis was at a higher level than in the 1960′s & 1970′s.
Hakeem Abdul Olajuwon belongs at #3 — behind Abdul – Jabbar, and Chamberlain & Russell (tied for second).

Posted by Terry | April 5, 2007 | 08:22 pm | Permalink

i HEAR HEAR what Terry said (which was actually a HEAR HEAR to what I had said first) and as for Biggs: ESPN’s East Coast bias? well i DO live in the midwest, so i would know. haha

Posted by chris | April 12, 2007 | 08:05 am | Permalink

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