Wilt has an argument, as does Russell, but nobody dominated modern age basketball like Shaq did.
Like a bulldozer through wet toilet paper, Shaq simply tore through the opposition and overpowered his way to success throughout his career, becoming the only player other than Jordan to win three consecutive NBA Finals MVPs.
His manner of attack was simple: gain access into the paint, which no one could stop him from doing, and attack the basket as often as humanly possible.
However, Shaq shared a common weakness with many other historically great centers: free throw shooting.
In fact, Shaq is one of the only players in the history of the game to shoot a
higher percent from the field than he does the free throw line. So great was Shaq’s efficiency from the floor and so poor was his free throw shooting, that other teams employed the “hack-a-Shaq” strategy, forcing Shaq to earn his points at the line.
Though Shaq has lost the lion’s share of his dominance today, he has still retained his ability to shoot a remarkably high level from the field and led the NBA in field goal percentage last year. Even now as a third-fourth option in Cleveland’s offense, he remains in the top 10 in that category.
Why he’s second: While Shaq may have overpowered the opposition in ways that no other modern player has come close to, the fact of the matter is that Kareem produced every bit as effectively as Shaq over a much larger period of time.
Shaq’s decline began around his 14th season while Kareem made it to his 18th season still producing all-star caliber numbers and he did so while logging far more minutes than Shaq.
Shaq was also infamous for reporting to training camp out of shape whereas Kareem’s dedication to his physical well-being led him above and beyond the call out of duty, taking up training in yoga and martial arts.
Also, Shaq’s stature in the NBA decreased at a much higher rate than Kareem’s had. In what seemed like an instant, Shaq went from being an overpowering force on Championship teams to being a hot commodity in search of another Championship.
Kareem never prostituted himself on the market looking for the next running-mate to take him to glory.
Taking all of this into consideration with the fact that Kareem won more Championships on less teams, Kareem is the runaway winner.