Shaq and Howard: The Only Great Centers Left

Isaiah MontoyaCorrespondent IMay 5, 2010

ORLANDO, FL - MAY 04:  Zaza Pachulia #27 of the Atlanta Hawks battles for a rebound with Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic in Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Amway Arena on May 4, 2010 in Orlando, Florida. The Magic defeated the Hawks 114-71. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Doug Benc/Getty Images

A good center is tough to come by, especially come playoff time. Centers currently vying for an NBA titles are the likes of Andrew Bynum, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and um... Kendrick Perkins. Shaq is still in there after 18 seasons and Dwight Howard is too. These are the only two centers in today’s playoffs that even make my top 15 centers of all time.

League-wide, only two other active players even make my all-time top 29 centers list.

This list was made by me, using a formula I created where I took each of these players' best season ever; added rebounds + assists (times 2) + steals (guessed on the ones before 1972 player defense stats*) + blocks (*) -(minus) turnovers - (minus) personal fouls + total points/(divided by)minutes played. This gave me the top 180 stat producing per-minute performers ever.

            THEN - I made a list of title wins and Finals appearances and listed the 180 by that. Then I added the numbers on each chart and divided by two and these were the results. This gives props to players best individual seasons plus their career success.


            Yes, it took a while, but if this gets kids interested in awesome players of the past, then I'm glad. 


            I'm 34 and remember some of the old school players and yet I am the same age as Duncan, Jamison and Pierce and younger than Shaq, Fisher and Nash. This is an unbiased comparison. Stats and wins speak for themselves. If you are not happy with it, you do the math. I did!


29-       Chris Kaman – Had a breakout year for the crappy Clippers, but is on his way up, and already in the 20, 10 club.

28-       Rik Smits – This 7’4” man could shoot, his problem was not taking it to the hole, with authority.

27-       David Lee – Seems like he is N.Y.’s only good center since Patrick. He is a 20, 10 guy too, and then some.

26-       Dikembe Mutombo – This defensive minded, 7’2” player retired last year as one of the greatest centers ever, at least defensively. Offensively he was off and on.

25-       Vlade Divac – Was an integral aspect to title contender L.A. Lakers in 1991 and later for the Kings. The big guy could pass, shoot and play defense; ok maybe his defense was kind of suspect.

24-       Roy Tarpley – Was really, really productive for the Mavs in the 80’s but kept on doing drugs. If he hadn’t (or hadn’t got caught) he would be higher on the list because he would have played for longer.

23-       Bill Laimbeer – Would the Bad Boys of Detroit have been so bad without big Bill? I don’t think so. He was a championship caliber player, twice around, who could shoot the graceful three or clobber anyone coming into the lane. At 6’11” and 260 he was perfect for the job.

22-       Dan Issel – He was only 6’9” but played with ferocity and tenacity, something bigger men should do. His mental skills made up for his physical shortcomings.

21 -      Brad Daugherty – The 7’0” was kind of soft, but productive, leading a Cavs team where he shared the production with great power forward Larry Nance.

20-       Jack Sikma – This guy could do it all, but he played on sub-par teams. He tried hard in every game, something which many modern centers fail to do.

19-       Willis Reed – A consistent player in all aspects for the Knicks. He led them in 1970 and 1973 in the finals to the tune of a finals MVP in ’73.

18-       Ralph Sampson – If he hadn’t gotten so injured he would have been one of the greatest ever. He saw some success before he was injured, as he teamed with second year player Olajuwon to make the 1986 finals. Remember who tipped in the last send shot against the Lakers to get to the finals? Sampson! They eventually lost to Parish and the Celtics.

17-       George Mikan- He accomplished more than any other center (aside from Russell and Jabbar) when it came to winning titles, but it was in the early 1950’s. After properly analyzing him in context of all-time centers, according to my formula, the 6’10” center land here.

16-       Artis Gilmore – This 7’3” giant was an awesome offensive and defensive threat throughout his career. Too bad he never won anything with it.

15-       Nate Thurmond – He was the only guy who could compete in the Russell, Wilt years. They both gave him proper respect for his defensive abilities and scoring touch, too bad current NBA fans don’t.

14-       Alonzo Mourning – Through sickness and in health, Alonzo played hard. He was often unbelievable at blocking shots despite being undersized (6’9 and a half). He could score in many ways too, and he helped Shaq and Wade win one for Miami in 2006.

13-       Dwight Howard – Has the potential to be one of the greatest ever, but will he? Is he assertive enough like Superman one? We shall see soon enough.

12-       Bob Lanier – One of the great big men of all time who played for bad teams throughout his career. Everything a center should be, except a champion.

11-       Alvan Adams – This guy was only 6’9” and completely overlooked by NBA fans. Why? Maybe it’s because he played for Phoenix in the 1970’s. If they would have beaten the Celtics in the 1976 NBA finals he would be better known. He was a true hustler.

10-       Robert Parish – He played more NBA games than anyone ever, winning four NBA titles along the way. Was never the first option, but that is what happens when you play with Bird, McHale and Jordan on your title teams 1981,1984,1986 and 1997 (he was really old by then and backed up Luc Longley and Bill Wennington).

09-       Bill Walton – One of the greatest passing big men ever who had the drive in college and the NBA to win titles. He led the Blazers to a title in 1977 and then kept getting injured. As a backup he won a couple titles with the Celtics too.

08-       Patrick Ewing – The best center to never win a title. Patrick could do it all. He was a beast on defense and offense, he was a strong leader, but for some reason he never won a title. I blame Jordan.

07-       Moses Malone – He was the needed component to win a title in 1983 for the 76’ers. With just Dr. J they couldn’t get over the hump. With Moses Malone, they beat the Lakers 4-0. This guy was a rebounding machine and a scoring champion who was intimidating because of his sullen attitude.

06-       David Robinson – When he came into the league he put up astounding numbers. He could run the floor, fast, at 7’1” and 255 pounds of pure muscle. Robinson scored over 70 in a game once and blocked shots like a madman throughout his career. He won two NBA titles, with Duncan at PF, in 1999 and 2003.

 05-      Bill Russell – At 6’9” and 225 pounds he dominated defense in the 1960’s. He was better than Wilt on defense and won more titles than anyone ever. He was truly an amazing player. If compared to an all-time pool of players, especially ones from the 80’s on, he ranks on my list here. If he played today he would be too small to play C, but he’d be a good SF.

04-       Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – It blows my mid how today’s NBA fans so often forget to mention Kareem as one of the greatest ever. Wow! He was 7’2” 265 pounds and could stop anyone’s shot and his sky hook was totally and completely unstoppable. Even when he was old he won NBA titles. He finished with six rings; five with L.A. and one with Milwaukee, where he teamed with Oscar Robertson.

03-       Hakeem Olajuwon – One of the most amazing players of all time. This guy had, finesse, power, speed, shooting ability and he was a defensive mastermind. He was only 6’10” but if he was over 7’0” he’d be better than Shaq or Wilt. Played during the Jordan era and won a title the two years Jordan was out, that says something about MJ. Olajuwon is so under appreciated by today’s fans, but I guarantee he would be the best if he played today.

02-       Shaquille O’Neal – Knowing the Lakers would have never won it in 2000, 2001 and 2002, and the Heat would have never won it in 2006 and the Cavs in 2010, without Shaq, he is obviously ranked here for a reason. At 7’1” 320 pounds, Shaq is one of the few big men who ever actually used their physical skills to the utmost degree. Lost in the Finals in 1995 and 2004 but could help Cleveland win it all this year, as a role player, but hey, he's in his 18th season, give him a break.

          01-    Wilt Chamberlain – He averaged 50.4 points per game once and scored 100 in one game. Averaged 25.0 rebounds a game for his career. This is way too amazing. With these numbers (1960’s) he could be the greatest center ever, even if he played in today’s NBA.



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