With Boston’s average performance in Chicago last night, Shaquille O’Neal might be more important than ever for the Celtics. The team is struggling and the presence of Shaq could turn things around.
O’Neal isn’t the physical freak that he once was. Back then, his best rival was Hakeem Olajuwon. Come to think of it, they are still rivals.
In their prime, who was better? We argue. You decide.
It has become pretty fair to say that Shaq is the best center of all-time. Those who argue against him usually want to give that honor to the historically dominant centers like Bill Russell or Wilt Chamberlain, which is understandable. However, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that Russell and Wilt-the-Stilt towered over their competition. Shaq didn’t have it as easy. Coming into the League as a rookie in ’92, Shaq was challenged by the likes of Ewing, Robinson and Olajuwon. All of these guys were in their primes. Needless to say, that didn’t intimidate Shaq at all. Averaging 23 points and 14 rebounds in his rookie season, it didn’t take long for the Diesel to prove he had the potential to be better than them all (if he wasn’t already).
During the early years of his career on the Magic, Superman proved he was capable of going toe-to-toe with the best of them. Although his Finals showdown with Olajuwon didn’t go as planned and the Magic got swept, Shaq still proved he was a force to be reckoned with. Olajuwon had the upper hand on Shaq in the Finals. Shaq was still a kid at the time and was overwhelmed by the environment of the big stage. Olajuwon was a seasoned vet, and a defending champion. He was lucky enough to take advantage of Shaq during his early years to get the second of his two rings. But that would mark a peak in Olajuwon’s success.
Once Shaq matured his game, and his frame, he evolved into what is the most dominant player of all-time (Shaq as #34). Regardless of what anybody says, Shaquille O’Neal anchored the Laker dynasty of the 2000s. During his days with the Lakers, there wasn’t a single player in the league who could guard Shaq. His dominance got to a point where it was ridiculous. His drop step was so unguardable that the NBA had to begin calling it an offensive foul. Not to mention the infamous Hack-a-Shaq strategy, which proved to be the only way to attempt to stop the Diesel late in games. As skilled and talented as Hakeem Olajuwon was, I don’t think he could’ve stopped #34 Shaq.
If you compare the numbers, Shaq clearly had the better career: he has more rings, more MVPs and better seasonal statistics. You could argue that Olajuwon’s best statistical year was in 1989-90 averaging 24-14; Shaq averaged that in his first season as a pro. As great as he was, Hakeem Olajuwon never reached the level of dominance attained by #34 Shaq. If you ask me, it’s a no-brainer who was better.