Patrick Ewing and Hakeem Olajuwon were always considered two of the best centers in the game and their induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008 officially cemented their place in history. But where does Ewing and Olajuwon rank among the greats? Who is the best center of all time? Wilt? Russell? Shaq? With apologies to SI.com’s Marty Burns, here’s the real top 10 list according to ONEMANFASTBREAK:
10. GEORGE MIKAN: A big salute to the man who started it all. The NBA owes a great deal of thanks to Big George because he carried the league through its early stages. The 6-foot-10 Mikan was ahead of his time. He dominated the sport and was a larger-than-life figure; the first true superstar of the NBA.
9. ARVYDAS SABONIS: By the time Sabonis entered the NBA, he was 31 years old and had chronic knee problems. But at the height of his basketball career, the big Lithuanian could score inside, shoot outside, and was a tremendous passer. “Arvydas was Dirk Nowitzki, only 7-foot-4. Passed the ball like Larry [Bird] or Magic [Johnson],” said Donnie Nelson.
8. PATRICK EWING: A friend of mine once told me that Ewing is the greatest Knick player of all time. Initially, I scoffed at the statement. Then the more I thought about it, he was right. Ewing was everything and then some to the Knicks and only a championship ring separated him and the next guy on this list.
7. DAVID ROBINSON: The Admiral won two NBA championships (with an big assist from Tim Duncan), a scoring title and voted regular season MVP in 1995. He played all 14 of his seasons for the San Antonio Spurs, and that alone is quite an achievement.
6. MOSES MALONE: Arguably the most dominant post player in the NBA from 1979-84. Three things come to mind: rebounds, rebounds, rebounds. His credentials include three regular-season MVPs, two trips to the NBA Finals and won a championship ring in 1983 with the Philadelphia 76ers.
5. HAKEEM OLAJUWON: For two years, Olajuwon was the best player on the planet. Of course, those two years were the ones Michael Jordan missed during the 1990s. Nonetheless, The Dream was a force on both ends. In 1994, he was the regular-season MVP, defensive player of the year and NBA Finals MVP.
4. SHAQUILLE O’NEAL: Despite all the weight issues and Kobe bashing, The Diesel is the biggest and strongest man to ever play the game. No player in NBA history attacked the rim like O’Neal. His dunks were so ferocious because he used every ounce of his 330-pound frame into every slam. Sure, he should have won more than four NBA titles or should have more than one regular-season MVP award, but Shaq’s dominance is measured by the amount of respect his peers have for him. He’s the modern-day Wilt!
3. WILT CHAMBERLAIN: The original MDE! Wilton Norman Chamberlain’s name is all over the record book. The man averaged 30.1 points and 22.9 rebounds for his career. He was one half of the greatest center rivalry in history and the only reason why he’s not rated higher is because he won just two NBA titles. Wilt was always concerned about numbers ~ 100 points, 23,000 rebounds, 20,000 women, etc. His greatest strength was also his greatest weakness. He was such a dominant individual scorer it affected team play.
2. BILL RUSSELL: William Felton Russell is the other half of the greatest center rivalry in the history of the game. The anchor of the Boston Celtics Dynasty has more championship rings than fingers. Russell is responsible for 13 ~ two as coach and 11 as a player ~ of the Celtics’ 17 championship banners. Defense may have been Russell’s calling card, but his legacy was all about winning. He won in college, he won a gold medal in the Olympics and is the gold standard when it comes to championship rings in the Association.
1. KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR: Speaking of winning…probably the greatest winner in the history of basketball when you consider high school, college and pro. He never lost a game in high school and was 88-2 while at UCLA.
In 20 years in the NBA, The Big Fella won six NBA championships (five with the Lakers and one with Milwaukee), a record six most valuable player awards and still holds the career scoring mark of 38,387. His best weapon on offense might be the greatest shot in league history: The Sky Hook.