Thursday, June 2, 2011

Top 5 Centers

With Shaq retiring, there has been a debate on TV and the interwebs about the top 5 centers of all-time. The word used to describe Shaq the most often during his career was "dominant," and Shaq was certainly that.

I have a problem with Bill Russell being mentioned as #1 by some people because you can't just look at the 9 championships. He is certainly a top 5 guy as he was the best defensive center of all-time and owned the glass, but not #1. Having the greatest GM/Coach of all-time, Bob Cousy, Tom Heinsohn, Sam Jones, and others around him along with there just being 8 franchises competing for a ring keeps him out of the top spot.

Some guys need rings to solidify their place in history. Kobe Bryant desperately needed to win a title without Shaq because he hadn't done it as "the man." There were at least a dozen players that would have won titles with the dominant Shaq from 00-02. LeBron needs one, but the number of titles doesn't mean you were a greater player than someone with a few less. However, I think you do need at least 1 to get into the discussion of greatest of all-time (see Dirk right now).

5. Hakeem Olajuwon - Hakeem has 2 rings (Finals MVP in both) and is top 10 all-time in points and just outside the top 10 in rebounds. He is considered the blocks leader, but blocks were not a calculated stat until the mid-70's. Olajuwon edged out George Mikan for the 5th spot due to his level of competition at the center position in the late 40's-mid 50's even though Mikan's 5 titles trump Hakeem's 2.

4. Shaquille O'Neal - Shaq gets on the list at #4 after winning 4 titles (3 MVP's) and finishing 5th all time in scoring. He is also 12th in rebounds and his run from 93-03 was the most dominant 10 year stretch anyone produced since the Russell/Wilt era.

3. Bill Russell - The greatest defensive center of all-time, Russell was a mammoth on the boards with over 20,000 career. Russell won 9 rings and was the force in the paint that the Celtics of the early to mid 50's lacked. He is 2nd all-time in rebounds and a 5 time MVP.

2. Kareem Abdul Jabbar - Kareem won 6 titles (2 MVP's) and 6 MVP awards en route to becoming the league's all-time leading scorer. He also is 3rd on the all-time list in rebounds and blocks.

1. Wilt Chamberlain - Wilt only won 2 titles, but that was mostly because he went up against Russell and his All-NBA teammates throughout his career. Swap Wilt with Russell and he wins at least a dozen championships. He was both a defensive presence, dominant offensive force, and all-around freak athlete. He is the NBA all-time leader in rebounds, 4 time MVP, 4th in points, and once led the league in assists just because naysayers said he didn't pass enough.

1 comment:

Beezbo said...

Agree with Wilt at #1. Don't forget Russell also had Havlicek, Bill Sharman at the beginning, plus KC Jones and Frank Ramsey during that run (all in the Hall of Fame). Auerbach was a smart guy who played off other owners who just wanted to have a franchise while Red just wanted to win. The only reason he got Russell is the guy with the #1 draft pick agreed to trade it for the rights to the circus to come to his town, and Red had some pull to help him.

Hate to pile on Russell, though, as he is one of the greatest human beings to put on a uniform and deserves having the Finals MVP named in his honor. But still... Wilt on those teams would have won just as much if not more while I don't think Russell would have won more with Wilt's rosters.