Shaquille O'Neal Retirement: Who Is the Greatest Center of All Time?

Alexander DiegelCorrespondent IIIJune 2, 2011

The Big Fella calls it quits after 19 NBA seasons
The Big Fella calls it quits after 19 NBA seasonsChristian Petersen/Getty Images

5) Hakeem Olajuwon

The Essentials: NBA MVP, two-time NBA Finals MVP, two-time NBA Champion, two-time Defensive Player of the Year, first in career blocks. Career averages: 22/11/3.1/1.7 (points/rebounds/blocks/steals)

'The Dream' had a 1995 playoff run to be remembered. After going through Hall-of-Fame big men Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, and David Robinson, Olajuwon gave a young Shaq a tutorial in humility in the Finals, going for over 30 points in all four games of the sweep.

He was one of the best all-around players, going for a quadruple-double in 1990, only the third in NBA history. A defensive stalwart near the level of Bill Russell.


4) Wilt Chamberlain

The Essentials: Four-time NBA MVP, two-time NBA Finals MVP, NBA Season Records: Scoring (50.4) Rebounds (27.2), FG% (72.7) Career: First in rebounds, second ppg (30.1)

From a statistical standpoint, Chamberlain is the greatest of all-time. So why wouldn't he be higher on this list? Chamberlain was dominated in head-to-head match-ups by fellow Hall-of-Famer Bill Russell. He also played in an era where he was the league's lone seven-footer.

Chamberlain would have been an all-time great in any era, but his gaudy statistics could have only come when he was physically head-and-shoulders above the rest.


3) Shaquille O'Neal

The Essentials: Three-time NBA Finals MVP, NBA MVP, two-time MVP Runner-up, four-time NBA Champion, two-time NBA scoring champ, career: 23.7/10.9 /2.3 (points, rebounds, blocks)

A virtual coin toss as to who to put ahead of the other: Shaq or Wilt. However, O'Neal pulled down twice the championships in an era with more teams and larger athletes. He saved his dominance for when it mattered most, peaking with an average of 38 points and 17 rebounds per game in the finals against the Pacers in 2000.


2) Bill Russell

The Essentials: 11-time NBA champion, 5- time NBA MVP, Second all-time in rebounds per game (22.5), first in playoffs (24.9), 10-0 all-time in game 7s, 16-2 in must-wins

The greatest defender of all-time, Russell was also the greatest winner. Russell proved the unstoppable force succumbs to the immovable object with his career record of 85 wins against 57 losses, versus Chamberlain. He is the only player-coach to win a title, something he did twice.


1) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar:

The Essentials: Six-time NBA MVP, six-time NBA Champion, all-time leader in scoring, minutes played, and field goals, 11-time All-Defense, career averages: 24/11/2.5 (points, rebounds, blocks)

Abdul-Jabbar is arguably the greatest player of all-time, yet continually gets left out of the discussion. He put up Chamberlain-like stats in a more modern era, averaging 35 points, 16.5 rebounds, and five assists per game in 1972. No one can approach the longevity of his dominance, playing 20 seasons, and taking home Finals MVP trophies 14 years apart.