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Best Signature Moves in NBA History: Centers

Fred KatzFeatured ColumnistMarch 12, 2015

Best Signature Moves in NBA History: Centers

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    ELISE AMENDOLA/Associated Press

    Almost every great player has some sort of signature move.

    Michael Jordan had the dunk from the free-throw line. Allen Iverson had the crossover. LeBron James has the chase-down block.

    Look at a list of all-time centers, and you'll find that the old-timers aren't the jump-shooters we see in today's game. They're the bruisers, the ones who dominate around the rim.

    Mostly, they are bruising defenders or rebounders—with some all-time scorers mixed in there, as well. The best ones do it in the most consistently comfortable ways. 

    Check out the first four parts of this series, in case you missed the rundown of the best signature moves from the point guardsshooting guardssmall forwards or power forwards. Now, on to the finale—the centers.

Wes Unseld's Outlet Pass

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    Today, we think of Kevin Love as this all-time outlet passer because of his full-court heaves after pulling down rebound after rebound. And we're not wrong. Love is tremendous at that skill, but he did get some inspiration from previous players.

    As a kid, Love would study tapes of Wes Unseld's passing ability. And there's a reason that Unseld was the guy he wanted to replicate.

    The Hall of Famer was a family friend of the Loves, and it's no coincidence that Kevin's middle name is Wesley, named after Unseld himself. Now, soothe the soul and watch some of these outrageous passes...

Hakeem Olajuwon's Dream Shake

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    It might be the greatest, most unstoppable signature move of all time: the Dream Shake.

    It's actually capitalized. That's right, Hakeem Olajuwon made one single post-fake so famous and so celebrated that we now have to refer to it as a proper noun, because anything else would be...improper.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's Skyhook

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    If Olajuwon's Dream Shake isn't the most notorious signature move in NBA history, then Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's skyhook probably is the one.

    The NBA's all-time leading scorer used his 7'2" frame and unrealistic skill set to create space and float in these impossible shots.

    Have you ever tried the skyhook? The amount of coordination it takes was unprecedented. And I assume you're not 7'2", meaning your coordination is supposed to be better than Kareem's. But, obviously, it's not, because Abdul-Jabbar had the skill set opposite of the oafish giant he was genetically supposed to become.

Dikembe Mutombo's Finger Wag

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    It's a good thing Dikembe Mutombo never played major minutes during the Twitter age. He could've gotten excoriated. 

    Imagine this: There's a game that loads of basketball fans are watching on NBA League Pass. Mutombo gets a swat and does the ever-celebrated finger wag, but because he spiked the ball, the offense recovers and scores while he was too busy shimmying those digits.

    It's happened before. No one really cared. Today, however, we scrutinize everything. Twitter would not have enjoyed this on many occasions. It's fortunate that he played in an era when everyone appreciated his dominance and personality.

Shaquille O'Neal's Quotables

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    We could've gone with the Hack-a-Shaq, any sort of dunk, one of his bajillion post moves or any classic line from Kazaam. It took a lot of will power not to insert every scene Shaquille O'Neal was in during the making of Grown Ups 2.

    Instead, we're going with the many quotes of the Big Diesel/Aristotle/Shaqtus/Agave/eQuotatious/Baryshnikov...my lord, does he have a lot of nicknames. That's not even a quarter of the ones that start with "The Big."

    Shaq was one of the funniest players ever. The top 10 list above only supports that sentiment.

Dwight Howard's Catch-Block

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    Now, on to the other Superman...

    I'm not sure what's more impressive here: the athleticism, the jumping ability, the coordination or the fact that Dwight Howard has done this multiple times.

    Ever since he had that ugly divorce with the Orlando Magic, we forget how dominant Dwight really was when he had his full range of motion and could jump over anything or anyone. He was one of the best defensive players the league had ever seen, partly because he would make plays like this on the regular.

Shawn Bradley's Ability to Get Dunked on

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    This is mean, isn't it? I should remove this slide, right?

    It's just so ill-spirited to Shawn Bradley. He never asked for this. He never requested for the entire NBA to decide simultaneously, "Hey, see that 7'6" guy over there? We should all try to dunk on him!"

    But everyone did it, and to some, Bradley will always be remembered as the center whom every player loved to posterize.

Patrick Ewing's Fadeaway

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    No matter what Patrick Ewing did during his Hall of Fame career, his top achievement will always be starring in the greatest Snickers commercial ever made. But alongside the all-time candy-bar-themed accomplishments that Ewing has compiled over the past few decades, he made some pretty decent plays on the basketball court, as well.

    Ewing is one of the most skilled big men ever to play. For some reason—probably the "ringzz" argument—he falls out of the conversation when we talk about the best centers ever, but he truly was one of the seven or eight greatest of all time.

    He could defend, score, shoot, post up, pass, everything. And his fadeaway was as fluid and gorgeous as any 7-footer's ever.

Wilt Chamberlain's Fadeaway and Finger Roll

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    It's hard to have one signature move when you score as often as Wilt Chamberlain did, but let's narrow this one down to the finger roll.

    After all, it was a move dominant enough to help him once score 100 points in a game. It helped him average more than 50 points per game one season. It helped him average better than 30 points per game in each of the first seven years of his career.

    Jeez, Wilt. Calm down. You were ridiculous.

Bill Russell's Block

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    It's such a shame that they didn't keep track of blocks during Bill Russell's era, because his numbers probably would've dwarfed any that we're used to seeing today.

    Anthony Davis, you think your league-leading 2.8 per game means anything to the man who is widely heralded as the greatest defensive center ever? Even Mark Eaton, who swatted 5.6 shots per game in 1984-85, probably wouldn't have had numbers that stood up to Russell's.

    The mini-documentary above gives an encompassing credence to how dominant the 11-time champion was around the rim. Never, ever penetrate on Bill Russell.

     

    Fred Katz averaged almost one point per game in fifth grade but maintains that his per-36-minute numbers were astonishing. Find more of his work on ESPN's TrueHoop Network at ClipperBlog. Follow him on Twitter at @FredKatz.

    Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are current as of March 12 and are courtesy of Basketball-Reference and NBA.com.

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