NBA Top 5 Post Moves of All Time: Which Player Had It All?
This article is strictly related to Big Men (C/PF) with the best arsenal of post moves. This does not include any players that did not play center or power forward.
This does not mean simply the best post players but rather the best post moves.
I only put the top 5 all time. I felt as though I had to give some credit where credit is due, so I listed some honorable mentions as well.
Patrick Ewing – Had some great post moves that included hook shots with his freakishly long arms. He also dominated the defensive end of the basketball court.
David Robinson – He is the Modern day left handed Dwight Howard, a physical freak to say the least. He is also the last player to record a quadruple double in 1994 with 34 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, and 10 blocks.
Kevin Garnett – His Shoulder Shimmy Shakedown made him scary from mid-range and unstoppable form the base line given his length.
Moses Malone – The mastered at throwing up shots around the basket and getting his own tip in, one of the quickest leapers the NBA has ever seen.
Charles Barkley – The Round Mound of Rebound had a great all around game but at only 6’6 it was amazing what he could do in the post.
Karl Malone – Think Modern day Blake Griffin. The Mailman delivered dunks whenever they were due.
Artis Gilmore – Know as the strongest player to play during his era. His shear strength dominated other post players.
Bill Russell – Best defensive big man of all time, also was not too shabby down on the low block.
Shaquille O’Neal/Wilt Chamberlain
Shaq’s Go to Move: Shaq Attack
Wilt’s Go to Move: Turnaround fade away/finger roll
I had to give a tie for the fifth place spot. Shaq and Wilt were the two most physically imposing figures of their era. Their unmatched size and strength was a BIG reason they were the two most dominating big men to ever play the game.
Both of these guys dominated the league for many years during their career. I did not place either of them higher on the list for post moves because neither of them necessarily had a vast array of post moves. But I could not leave them out either because they might be the two most centers to ever play the game in the low post.
Don’t get me wrong they did have some signature go to moves but they imposed their will with their size, strength, and athletic ability. Shaq and Wilt were very athletic for such large men.
Wilt stood 7’1" and weighed 275 lbs during an era where such large men were few and far between in the NBA. Not only was he large he was extremely athletic for such a big basketball player.
Wilt dominated every aspect of the game and beat players in every way possible. Defense, rebounding, blocking shots, low post, fast break, you name it he was the best at it during his time.
It is hard to say what Wilt would have looked like in today’s game but he would have still been an opposing figure. His turnaround fade away in the post was something that had not been seen before and was un-guardable at the time. No one in the league was big enough to contest that shot and the defender just had to hope he missed.
The problem is he did not even have to use that shot because chances are he could just get by you for the sweet finger roll or dunk.
These days there are players in the league that might be able to match Wilt’s size, strength, and athletic ability. It almost seems like he came into the league 20 years to early. Regardless, he was the most dominate big man to ever play the game. He scored 100 points in a single game, this will never happen again.
When Shaq hit the NBA hardwood in 1993 at 7’1" and weighing 325 lbs (his list weight I am pretty sure he was heavier than that) he took the league by storm while breaking numerous back boards in the process.
Shaq not only brought massive size to the NBA, but he also brought quite the personality as well. He made other grown men look like children on the basketball court. He imposed his will on all the other centers in the league and never looked back.
Shaq’s go to post move was what I like to call the “Shaq Attack.” It was actually his patented drop step spin move. Shaq found a lot of his points bullying people down low while getting deep position around the basket. Once he got within a few feet of the basket you either had to move out of the way or employ the classic “Hack-a-Shaq” to send him to the free throw line where he was awful.
Shaq would position himself in the post and could drop step spin to the left or right. If he went inside he would come out of his spin and bull rush the basket for the dunk or foul, usually both. If he went outside he had a nice little hook shoot. He also used a hook shoot across the lane if the paint was too crowded.
Shaq could not be stopped in the low post. His one weakness was free throws and that is how many teams dealt with his dominance down low.
Shaq was hands down the most physically imposing post player to play in the modern NBA era.
Go To Move: Triple Threat drive/Bank shot
Tim Duncan’s nickname “The Big Fundamental” sums up his post game pretty well.
The triple threat position is a fundamental attribute for a basketball player and one that Duncan has mastered. Duncan can flair out to the mid-range area and receive a pass from his teammate and turn and face his defender not having dribbled yet. From there you might as well have marked up two points on the score board.
He sets his feet slightly wider than his shoulder width and slightly on the balls of his feet, his knees are flexed, and he has both hands on the basketball in front of him almost resting on his thighs. He presents to the defender with a stance that is able to go either direction. One foot is held as the pivot and the other slightly ahead.
From this fundamentally sound position Timmy would employ a serious of jab steps and pump fakes to get the defender off balance. If the defender backed off a little too much Duncan well then the banks is open and Duncan would shoot is patented shot of the glass.
If the defender got to close Duncan would swing the ball to the inside and go by the defender for the running hook shot. But watch out, if the defender goes after the ball and puts his hands down then Duncan would immediately shoot the ball up through the defenders arms for the shot and the foul.
If Duncan got crowded on the inside he can roll back to the outside and drive in for the layup. If the defender is able to bet back in position, Duncan would use his shoulder fakes to stride across the lane for the sky hook or spin back to the baseline for the fade away off the glass jumper.
Tim Duncan has every fundamental post move in his arsenal and has mastered them all. He does not get a whole lot of attention because he is not the flashiest player in the world, but basketball experts love to watch his footwork in the post and the way he embarrasses defenders with his array of post moves.
Other great players in the league respect and commend him all the time for his all-around game and his poise on the basketball court.
Carlos Boozer said, “He's probably the best post-up player we have in the world. He has every move. He has poise. He never gets rattled. You can send a double-team at him, but he'll pass out of it. If he has single coverage, he'll face you up and shoot off the glass, get the layup, spin move baseline, right hook, left hook, fade away. He can do whatever he wants down there."
Part of Tim Duncan’s greatness comes from his high basketball IQ. From a cerebral stand point he is the best post player to ever hit the low block. He is has mastered so many low post moves that defenders often find themselves guessing. That’s when it becomes a work of art to watch Duncan on the low block. Just when defenders think they know what he is going to do next he does not something completely different. He gets in your head and out smarts you in the post and there is nothing anybody can do to stop him.
As far as an all-around post game Duncan has to be considered one of a kind and is one of the very best post players to ever set foot on a basketball court.
Go To Move: The Slippery Eel
The Slippery Eel was a move that was performed on the baseline. McHale was known for his fakes and up and under moves. He incorporated all of these into his Slippery Eel move. The move was made up of an array of shoulder fakes and pump fakes that turned into either a turnaround fade away on the baseline or an up-and-under for a the layup.
Kevin McHale’s back to the basket post game and footwork were simply amazing.
It started with his ability to hit a turnaround fade away over either shoulder. McHale was 6’10" with long arms and his shot was an old school behind the head release very similar to the modern day Dirk Nowitzki. It was a shot that defenders had to leap and leap early for because he got it off really high and quick.
Once McHale had the fade away in place the rest was footwork. He positioned himself close to the rim and had a very physical drop step to the baseline.
If you overplayed the turnaround, he would answer with a quick hook from either hand.
What made him truly un-coverable were his fakes on the fades and hooks that he paired with the up and under counter-moves. McHale basically revolutionized the post game with is up and under moves in the 1980s.
McHale was the master at getting guys out of position and just lean around and finish with finger rolls and touch shots. To add to that he moved very well without the ball and was very good at getting position around the basket.
Great post defenders that have played against him have said he was the toughest player they ever had to guard in the post.
Horace Grant was quoted saying, “there is just no one way to play him.”
Barkley talks about him every once in a while as being the best player he ever went up against. Saying, “Yep, he was the torture chamber.”
There is a reason McHale is the only player in NBA history to ever shoot 60 percent from the field and 80 percent from the line.
Kevin McHale truly revolutionized post moves in his era and is considered one of the greatest post players to play in the NBA.
Go To Move: The Sky Hook
The trademark sky hook was hands down was the single most unstoppable post move in NBA history. It was a hook shot in which Kareem would bend his entire body, rather than just his arm, like a straw in one fluid motion to raise the ball and then release it at the highest point of his arm’s arching motion. Given that Kareem was 7’2" and had long arms the sky hook was nearly impossible for a defender to block with goaltending.
Kareem would have been No. 1 on the list given that he had the single most dominate post move ever. But you will notice that I said “post move” not “post moves”. His ambidextrous sky hook shot was rarely ever blocked and was what contributed to his .559 field goal accuracy.
On offense Abdul-Jabbar was an unstoppable low-post threat. His was a little different than other low post players in that at 7’2 he only weighed 225 lbs. He made up for his lack of bulk with his textbook finesse, strength, and his famous ambidextrous sky hook.
The reason Kareem is not considered to have the best post moves or all time is that he had so much more to his game outside of post moves. He was quick enough to run the “Showtime” fast break with Magic Johnson and so well conditioned that he would stay on the hardwood for an average of 36.8 minutes.
Kareem could take anybody to the block and with his quickness and maneuver by the defender for the slam dunk or take two steps across the lane for a sky hook. He was also streak down the paint looking for the pass only to side step defenders with a finger roll.
According to Abdul-Jabbar, he learned his sky hook in fifth grade after practicing with the Mikan Drill and soon learned to value it, as it was “the only shot I could use that did not get smashed back in my face.”
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was undoubtedly one of the greatest scoring big men to over play the game. He had a very long and successful career of 20 years and because of his sky hook was one of the most unstoppable players on the low block.
Go To Move: The Dream Shake
The dream shake accomplished three things and was the most devastating post move the NBA has ever seen. One was to misdirect the opponent and make him go the opposite way; two, was to freeze the opponent and leave him devastated in his tracks; three, to shake off the opponent and giving him no chance to contest the shot.
Hakeem did not even step foot onto the basketball court until his late teens. He spent most of his youth playing soccer which is where he attributes his outstanding fakes and finesse on the basketball court.
Hakeem really had it all as far as post moves are concerned. He could take you from the triple threat position Jab step, crossover, head to the basket, spin move, ball fake, up and under, Score.
He had an effective jump hook; turn around fade away, power stop drive with a spin move, up and under, the list goes on. He made his name with his ball fakes and shot fakes though. The reason he was so good is that he did not just use one move to get the basket. He used multiple moves that seamlessly flowed from one to the other.
I can’t think of any other player that had ever put together combinations of moves like he did. He did things in the post that no one else could, and in my opinion no other player in today’s game has been able to replicate.
Some players have picked up on some of his shot fakes and up and under moves etc. No one has been able to put together a complete post game the way The Dream did.
It was really a thing a beauty and a work of art the way he could incorporate so many moves into one sequence and use those to dismantle some of the other greatest big men to play the game.
This includes two of the other greatest big men in NBA history in Shaq and David Robinson. They were also both known as extraordinary defenders during their time.
Shaq admitted that Olajuwon dominated him in the 1995 Finals.
“If I'm going to fight you, I'd rather just beat you," he said. "If I can't beat you, I'll be a man and say I can't beat you. I'm not going to [cry about it]. . . . I'm the first guy to say that somebody is better than me. I was the first guy to say Hakeem Olajuwon beat me in the  NBA finals. He killed me. He dominated me. I didn't go, 'Oh, he's traveling. They had experience. Wah-wah-wah.' I'm a man. Hakeem Olajuwon dusted my butt. These guys now are crying, 'Three seconds!' It's just funny to me."
Michael Jordan was asked if he had to pick one center all time best team who he would take.
“If I had to pick a center [for an all-time best team], I would take Olajuwon. That leaves out Shaq, Patrick Ewing. It leaves out Wilt Chamberlain. It leaves out a lot of people. And the reason I would take Olajuwon is very simple: he is so versatile because of what he can give you from that position. It's not just his scoring, not just his rebounding or not just his blocked shots. People don't realize he was in the top seven in steals. He always made great decisions on the court. For all facets of the game, I have to give it to him.”
Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon had the best arsenal or post moves the NBA has ever seen.