Who Is the More Dominating NBA Center, Wilt or Shaq?

Richard JTContributor IIIMarch 4, 2010

Wilt never broke a rim in an NBA game as far as I know. That doesn't mean that he couldn't have done it if he wanted to.

Shaq set out to do what he did, he deliberately put all of his weight into the dunk for the express purpose of getting himself on Sportscenter.

Wilt used to work out with the Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger ) during the time when Arnold first came to the U.S. as a bodybuilder. Wilt got his bench press up to 500 pounds. Shaq could only bench about 450, probably less now.

When Wilt was 59 years old, he was STILL able to bench 465, which is more that Shaq has ever been able to do. Wilt was 63 when he died.

Did you ever see Charles Barkley play? If not, I'm sure you've seen video of him.... Barkley was listed at 6'6" and about 252 lbs...very, very strong, very fast and very explosive.

In the 60s and early 70s, there was a player in the NBA by the name of Gus Johnson.... he was kind of like the Charles Barkley of the 60s...very strong, quick and a great leaper. Johnson was listed at about 6'6" and about 230, he didn't have as much fat on him as Barkley did.

Anyway, one day, late in the 1967 season (the year Wilt's 76ers won the NBA title and went 68-13 in the regular season), Gus Johnson (who was playing for the Bullets), drove to the basket and was able to dunk over Wilt, which not a lot of guys could do. Wilt wasn't exactly pleased.

Later in that same game, Gus got the ball on a fast break, and the only guy back was Wilt. Gus was going to try to dunk it again. He had a perfect 45 degree angle toward the basket to try for the slam.

This time, when Gus reached the peak of his leap, Wilt went up and, with one hand, caught the ball cleanly. All Wilt did was get his hand on the ball. Gus' forward motion immediately stopped, and he felt something pop in his shoulder. He hit the floor, and when they examined him, he became the first and only player ever to suffer a dislocated shoulder on a blocked shot. Wilt didn't even foul him on the play, all he did was block the dunk. He never even touched him, he got all ball.

Gus Johnson always attacked the basket with a wreckless abandon, pretty much like Lebron does now. If you can imagine anyone dislocating Lebron's shoulder while blocking his shot, that's what it was like when Wilt did that to Gus.

Another time, Wilt broke an opponent's toe with a dunk. Wilt dunked one time and the ball hit the foot of Hall of Famer Johnny "Red" Kerr with such force that he broke it. Kerr immediately knew what happened as soon as the ball hit his foot. But he didn't want anyone to know that Wilt's dunk broke it, so he pretended to trip on his way up the court so that fans would think he accidentally broke his foot. It wasn't until after he got to the locker room that he confessed that it was Wilt's dunk that broke the bone.

Wilt was definitely stronger than Shaq (although Shaq is a LOT heavier because he has a lot more fat than Wilt did). Shaq's excess fat has a negative affect on his stamina. Wilt averaged 46 minutes per game over the course of his career, and in 1962, Wilt only sat out EIGHT MINUTES of the ENTIRE SEASON. He was ejected with two technicals with eight minutes to go in one game, but played every minute (including overtimes) of each of the other 79 games that season. As a result of playing more minutes of overtime than he sat out during regulation, Wilt averaged 48.5 minutes per game that year, even though a regulation game is only 48 minutes. Shaq has only had one season in which he averaged 40 min/game. He's never been a conditioning fanatic.

Shaq is good, but he ain't Wilt Chamberlain

How good would Shaquille O'neal have done, had he played in the 60's?

Shaq would still be good but he ain't doing Wilt-style numbers, Shaq would flat out struggle. Folks before you think Shaq is a one of a kind player go watch Darrell Dawkins in the 70's. He was the mirror image of young Shaq with one major difference. Dawkins couldn't make a career out of dipping his shoulder and bulldozing his way to a dunk! Now imagine 60's ball when the game was called really tight and think about what Shaq could do offensively. The guy would be called for traveling or charging damn near every time he touched the rock. Now on alley oops and dish-offs from dribble-drives the rim is coming down baby. He would be good for about 18 pts. a game and thats it.

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Facts: in the 60s the refs gave more slack to the defenders against dominating centers, so they would hack and claw and double team Shaq like they did Wilt. Shaq would be able to overpower most defenders but I doubt if he could outwit Bill Russell and Nate Thurmond. Easy 30 ppg. I mean heck, if Walt Bellamy could get 30 ppg as a rookie Shaq could too.

He'd get fouled and killed a lot but if he makes half his free throws he'll be fine.

The problem is that defenses can collapse on him more because he had absolutely no midrange game. Wilt scored the bulk of his points on fadeaways and finger rolls. What does Shaq have in that aspect? An ugly jump hook that Russell could probably block without blinking.

Rebounding wise, I only see Russell outfoxing him and Wes Unseld boxing him out. He'd flatten Jerry Lucas

How would Chamberlain have done, had he played in the current era?

Wilt would have one field day after another playing against guys like Eddy Curry and Zydrunas Ilgauskas and a bunch of other guys who wouldn't have made the NBA in the 1970s or 80s.

Wilt averaged 46 min/game over his career... if a center plays 35 min in ONE game today, it's considered to be an iron man performance. Wilt would wear out any center today who tried to keep up with him.

He'd be a 30-35 pt, 25 rebound a night player today. He was the strongest player in NBA history...he was a better leaper and also much more fundamentally sound than any center today. Chamberlain is the only non-guard ever to lead the NBA in assists. He was also the greatest rebounder of all time.

Today's NBA has a lot of "midgets" who are under 6'...there were no such players in Wilt's time... Nate Archibald was nicknamed "Tiny" and he was 6'1".

Besides, what does height have to do with anything anyway? Yao Ming is 7'5" or whatever, and has had his shots blocked by 5'9" Nate Robinson ... that wouldn't have happened with Wilt.

It would be a joke watching these guys try to stop Wilt.

I would not consider the 90s to be the best era for big men...you basically had four or five HOF quality centers in the league in Shaq, Olajuwon, Ewing, Robinson and possibly Zo. Maybe Mutombo if you want to go that far. But that was IT.

In the 70s, we had Jabbar, Walton when he was healthy, Cowens, Reed, Hayes, Unseld, Thurmond, Jerry Lucas, Wilt, Walt Bellamy, Bob Lanier, Moses Malone, Bob McAdoo, plus Artis Gilmore, Dan Issel and Mel Daniels from the ABA. Not all of those guys played throughout the 70s, but they were all there during that generation.

All of the NBA guys I named are Hall of Famers, Issel is a HOF as well, but Gilmore certainly should be in there too, and even Daniels has a decent argument, although I dont see him ever making it, unfortunately.

Are you even aware that blocks were not recorded by the NBA until 1974. Wilt retired in 1973, Russell in 1969. Steals were also not an official stat until 1974. Olajuwon's blocked shot totals would be dwarfed by Wilt and Russell had blocks been an official stat.

Heck, Wilt blocked 17 shots in his very first NBA game (oh and btw, he also chipped in with 43 points and 28 rebounds that night). 

Blocks (and steals) were not officially kept by the NBA until the 1973-74 season (the season after Wilt retired), and the NBA does not recognize ANY blocked shots by Wilt or Russell (even though they're on film).

Wilt was a 48 min/game man. He averaged 46 min/game over his career. He would have worn Shaq out easily simply with FAR superior strength and stamina (not to mention skill).

You wanna talk about Shaq's passing? Wilt was the ONLY non-guard ever to lead the NBA in assists.

btw, Russell and Wilt would have had an absolute field day against a robot like Patrick Ewing. Of all the great centers in NBA history, Ewing would have been absolutely the easiest to guard. He was at the other end of the spectrum from Olajuwon in terms of moves. He had about one.

Wilt and Russell never competed in an NBA full of high school players and one-and-done college players either. And the only players under 6' that played in the NBA all played while Shaq was playing, not while Wilt and Russell were playing. It was Shaq who benefited by playing in a league with a bunch of midgets. Muggsy Bogues FIVE FOOT THREE!!! There were almost no players under 6 foot when Wilt and Russell played, because a player that size would never be given a look. Sebastian Telfair? Please...

When Wilt scored his 100 point game, the Knicks' center was 6'11"... he was two inches shorter than Wilt. So if Shaq's a 7'1'', what was his high game against a 6'11 guy?

NBA centers have been going downhill during the last 20 years. Which means that truly great players like Olajuwon, Shaq and Robinson played very few games against HOF quality centers. Wilt, in fact, played against more HOF centers than any player in history except Kareem.

The 1990s saw a decline in the overall quality of centers. And again, dont get me wrong, its not the fault of Hakeem, Ewing, Robinson or Shaq as to when they were born. They came to the NBA when they did. But the 1990s NBA was becoming loaded down with too many guys who came right out of high school and werent ready for the NBA (other than their potential).

Olajuwon might face Ewing twice a year, Shaq twice a year, and David Robinson may 4x a year, if that... Wilt and Russell played against each other 142 times in ten seasons... Olajuwon didn't play 142 games in his career against a HOF center. Then there was Nate Thurmond. And Jerry Lucas. And Willis Reed. And Dave Cowens. And Walt Bellamy. And Bob Lanier. And Bob McAdoo. And Kareem (Wilt and Kareem played 27 games against each other in 3 years....they did not meet during the year Wilt was mostly out). How many games did Olajuwon have to play before he met a HOF center 27 times. Forget it. The level of competition at the center position particularly, has done nothing but gone downhill.

The fact that Kwame Brown has been able to carve out a 10 year career in the NBA shows how weak the league is overall. The NBA has always had players who were very much below average, but they didn't used to last nine years (as Brown has so far) 

If Shaq or any of today's pampered modern players have the misfortune of playing in the 60's with its outdated training methods and nutrition, theyre physical skills and abilities would be impaired to the point that they would do no better if not only slightly better, than your average 60's player. The modern players will not dominate the 60's competition who are using the same 60's training methods and nutrition as they are.

Particularly, Shaq. I doubt that 60's training methods and nutrition could hold Shaq's body fat in check like modern ones could. Anyway, lets compare Shaq and Wilt. Shaquille at 34 years old is in a physically deteriorating state. Wilt meanwhile at the same age, is still happily blocking Kareem's skyhooks, grabbing a career LOW of 18 rebs.(!),and shooting at a ridiculous percentage (iirc, it was 65 percent, the next year it was 72 percent). Wilt in his prime was dropping 50 points and 25 rebs. Half of those points came from his mid range fadeaway shot...what surprise that Wilt has a perimeter game? Wilt has a more varied shot selection than Shaq and also in his prime, Wilt was dunking free throws from the charity stripe with hardly any running start.

Wilt would have destroyed Shaq statistically, and Russell would have beaten him every time. Every...time.