Talking Lakers Bigs

Jeff Skibiski —  August 8, 2010

Deciding which Lakers big man reigns supreme in the team’s history books is like trying to fill your plate up at a a really nice buffet; first you eye the carved turkey and mashed potatoes, then your attention shifts to the double molten chocolate cake. When it’s all said and done though, you want a little of everything on your plate. Start your Sunday off with a little nostalgia with this video featuring arguably the crème de la crème of Lakers big men—Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Then, check out this insightful article from Yahoo! Sports’ Kelly Dwyer about Shaquille O’Neal’s untapped potential as the greatest big man of all-time. Here’s an excerpt:

And Shaq’s gifts were never fully realized as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s were in his time with Oscar Robertson (who, left without Paul Silas setting screens for him, dumped it into the skilled young center), or Abdul-Jabbar’s time before Magic Johnson (when it was Kareem, all alone, taking the lumps but getting to put up the numbers). Shaq’s best years were spent in an offense that asked the center to think pass-first, and yet he dominated first, second, and last. If anything – and this isn’t some caveat put down to make myself feel better about ripping on the guy – his time spent with the Lakers under Phil Jackson has been underrated.

Jeff Skibiski


to Talking Lakers Bigs

  1. I posted this earlier, but it’s more applicable here so I’ll repeat it.

    Concerning the best Laker or player of all time, it’s difficult to discuss because there is so much difference between the 1-2-3 positions and the 4-5 positions.
    I’m going to agree that Kareem is the best Laker and NBA player of all time (to this point) for all the reasons given in previous posts.
    And the fact that a top elite level 4-5 player comes along less often than the same at the 1-2-3 and has more influence on the game.
    In Kareem’s case, the top elite player at the 5 who won 6 rings over 17 years with two teams (meaning he had to start over and build up to a championship level again) and played for 20 years at a high level.

    Kareem’s list of awards and records seems never-ending:
    6 Championships (with 2 teams, his jersey is retired by both teams) (includes 2 against the evil Celtics)
    2 Championships as assistant coach
    6 Season MVPs
    2 Finals MVPs
    19 All-Star games
    10 All-NBA First Team selections
    5 All-NBA Second Team selections
    5 NBA All-Defensive First Team selections
    6 NBA All-Defensive Second Team selections
    NBA Career Points Leader at 38,387
    Rookie of the Year
    3 NCAA Championships

    He played against top centers from Wilt to Spencer Haywood to Wes Unseld to Moses Malone and many others from the early 70s to the late 80s.
    And one can argue that with fewer teams, the talent he played against on each team was stronger, not as watered down as the current teams.

    If I could choose one player in his prime to start an NBA team, it would be Kareem.

    Second, Shaq.
    Shaq is a great NBA center and helped the Lakers to win 3 rings.
    But I would say that Kareem, Wilt, Russell, and Hakeem are better then Shaq. Shaq would be at the 5th position of best NBA centers.
    He had the physical talent to be higher, but not the mental drive.

    Concerning the fallout of Shaq’s signing with the evil ones, I still think the Lakers should eventually retire his jersey, but not immediately when he retires. They should wait a few years.
    Perhaps wait until Kobe retires and retire Kobe’s jersey first.
    Then retire Shaq’s jersey the following year.


  2. Two words:

    THE MAN.


  3. Oscar didn’t play with Paul Silas!


  4. Yep- I love MJ, but every time the GOAT thing comes up, I think of how utterly neglected Kareem is nowadays. Insane consistency and productivity. I don’t think Kobe’s going to catch his career point totals. I don’t think Lebron will, either.


  5. This video blew me away. Kareem had it all and this video showcases that. He’s dropping skyhooks as if they were mid range jumpers!!! I grew up watching Kareem and Magic, and I agree, Kareem needs more appreciation when it comes to the legends of the league. Shaq may have had a few dominant seasons, but Cap makes that look like a flash in the pan when you look at how consistently amazing he was for most of his career.


  6. Patrick O’Connor August 8, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    Laker greatness is special because of the standard achieved in post-playing days. West’s career as team architect of so many Laker titles. Magic’s role as example of living with AIDS and and being the role model of business success. Kareem’s development as a man of letters. Kareem the social commentator and historian. I wait to see what Kobe and Shaq do with their lives once they retire.


  7. I hope I don’t see Shaq’s jersey hanging in Staples in my lifetime. (and I don’t think Dr. Buss is too excited about hanging it either.)

    How do you measure a contribution to an organization? You measure it against the potential the person had to contribute. Shaq gave 50% of himself. In his entire career, he has made no concerted, consistent effort to improve. He has coasted on his God-given talent and eventually let down every team he ever played for.

    Kobe gives 110% of himself. Don’t mention them in the same breath.

    Let Shaq’s jersey hang on Boston’s wall or Miami’s wall or Orlando’s wall. Let it hang in the places where they hang conference flags and division banners.


  8. Lakerpassion,

    it is fairly conceded that shaq never actualized the considerable potential that he possessed, but let’s not forget the fact that he was the centerpiece of 3 laker championships. your assertion that a person’s contribution to an organization is quantized by the relative amount of potential he realizes is simply incorrect. a player’s contribution to an organization is measured through team success and production. shaq was the most dominant force in the game during his time in LA and the Lakers won 3 straight championships. in the first 2 years of the three-peat shaq averaged a 30-15 in the playoffs and in the 3rd year he averaged over 28-12 in the playoffs earning himself finals mvp each year. you can count me squarely in the camp that believes shaq should have his number retired by the lakers and i don’t really understand how anyone could feel otherwise. though his work ethic left something to be desired, his accomplishments speak for themselves and he deserves to be remembered for what he accomplished as a Laker…also, im pretty sure that boston doesn’t hang conference flags or division banners either.


  9. Without going into ifs, Shaq was indeed a monster, but I just don’t see him as being the most dominant ever, mostly because I always saw him as being hobbled by his FTs.

    It’s just that the IFs are so hard to get rid of. If he could’ve maintained his Orlando physique, he’d probably have had half as many injuries and very likely that he’s still a Laker…


  10. I also grew up watching Magic and Kareem, and I enjoy Kareem’s game, but Wilt was the tops for the 5 position. GOAT is still Magic over all.


  11. Lakerpassion @ 7:
    “Let Shaq’s jersey hang on Boston’s wall or Miami’s wall or Orlando’s wall. Let it hang in the places where they hang conference flags and division banners.”



  12. shaq was a BEAST!! a narcissist, YES, but the centerpiece around 3 TITLES. Look up at some of the names hanging in Staples, and tell me Gail Goodrich or Elgin Baylor (elgin got 0 rings, i believe, one at the most) deserve to be up there more than shaq: they do not. i’ve always thought moving him was the right thing to do, taking everything into account at the time, and have at times hated his behavior (anybody else yet realized that Boston now has TWO BIG BABIES? tell your friends…), but c’mon, no shaq, no 3peat, not even close.

    his jersey HAS to hang up there. that said, i look forward to his embarrassingly sluggish final year in the league as he gropes for the spotlight he hasn’t deserved since the Miami days 5 years ago.


  13. He is the most dominant big man to ever play the game because he was the biggest, most nimble player ever for that position. The same can be said for LaBrawn. THEY are freaks of nature. THEY are awesome human specimens that defy nature, but they both dominate without the killer insticts of a Magic, Bird, Jordan or Kobe. Those guys were (and are) great players and fierce competitors.

    With that said, I believe the Cap was the BEST center ever. You can’t say GOAT because different positions require differt skills. He was taller than everyone else but wasn’t allowed to dunk. He came up with another shot that was almost as unstoppable (the skyhook). He blocked shots, scored, rebounded, and carried teams unlike Shaq and LaBrawn. As such CAP should be considered the GCOAT. Shaq is the most dominant force (strongest) that ever played but now that he has taken his mercenary skills to Boston all I have to say is:
    FS UH CA KQ.


  14. Maleko,
    I watched Kareem from the day he enrolled at UCLA as Lou Alcindor. If you only followed him after Magic came on the scene you missed an awfully lot of an absolutely superb basketball talent. By missing his first 10 years in the league, never mind his college career, you simply cannot make comparisons between he and Shaq. Those two are not really in the same league. We tend to think only bullies can dominate, but Kareem was simply unstoppable. He took care of himself and he took care of his team. He just didn’t take care of the reporters or the hangers-on. Yeah Shaq was more fun, but don’t even start to compare these two when talking to someone who has seen the entirety of both careers.


  15. I grew up watching Magic and Kareem also and Kareem was an amazing talent. Very different than the model centers of today. One fault that is hard to hold against him but was difficult to deal with was his propensity to develop migraines and the worry during a lot of those playoff runs that they would keep him out of games.


  16. Kareem came into the NBA when the U.S. military was still ramping up its efforts in the Vietnam War, and he retired from the league the year the Berlin Wall came down.

    Think about that for a minute.


  17. According to the media who vote on All-NBA, Kareem was the first or second best center in the NBA for 15 years. That type of longevity is just unreal.

    Yes, it would’ve been nice had Shaq focused more on the game, but his Hall of Fame career was most notable for his contribution to the Lakers. Every precedent shows that his number will hang from Staples.


  18. The Captain. Simply amazing.

    One thing I always think on when looking back on Kareen was how not being able to dunk in college (the shot was outlawed) affected his game. In the end I usually come to the conclusion that it helped the development and growth of his offensive game. Kareem surely could have dominated college solely by using his superior length and footwork to establish the type of position where all he did was dunk. Instead, with the shot banned, he further developed his footwork and worked on his hook shot and face up game to the point that he would ultimately become an unstoppable offensive force. What a player.


  19. I’m far from sure any of us can look into Shaq’s heart and know if he developed his full potential, let alone what % age, if any, went undeveloped. I doubt Shaq knows.