During the NBA on TNT pregame show, following the NBA's announcement of the first 25 players from the 75th Anniversary Team, O'Neal was asked to rank the best centers in Lakers' history. Here's what he had to say:
Kareem, me, then Wilt. Yeah, I'm better than Wilt. I'd bust Wilt's ass. Hell yeah!
Shaquille O'Neal, NBA on TNT
To no one's surprise, Barkley disagreed, kicking off the back and forth between two NBA legends. O'Neal cited his rings, as he always does, and the statue of him outside the Staples Center -- he would not have a statue if his impact wasn't remarkable. Barkley's answer was simple: "you're already getting petty."
Where does Shaq rank among Lakers' big men?
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, O'Neal, and Chamberlain are all deserving to be in the top spot. Choosing the best among the centers who played for the Lakers is tricky. The players played in different eras under different circumstances and different levels of competition.
Abdul-Jabbar sits on top of the most points scored list of all-time. His record is in danger of being overtaken by LeBron James this season. He won five rings in eight finals appearances. Off the court, Kareem remains an ambassador of the game, often appearing in public events and even campaigning for the players to get vaccinated. Meanwhile, Wilt Chamberlain played for the Purple and Gold in the latter part of his career. He was not at his peak yet, but he managed to win a title and the Finals MVP at 36 years old. If Wilt suited up for the Lakers five years earlier, he would have won and accomplished more. So what's the verdict?
Shaq is wrong with his rankings; he should name himself ahead of Kareem and Wilt. In terms of dominance, The Big Diesel changed how teams drafted in his generation. He managed to score 28,596 in his career despite lacking 3-point shots and bricking almost every free throw and spent his prime years as a Laker with career averages of 27 points and 11.8 rebounds per game. That's why he deserves to be No.1 on this list. But why talk about it on the opening day of a new season?
Ranking all-time greats bring up heated discussions. As mentioned, aside from the stats, the players all played in different eras. Can Wilt or Kareem dominate today's NBA the way they used to dominate in their generation? Does Shaq's lack of outside shooting hurt his team's chances of making the playoffs if he played today? There's no way of knowing, which makes the all-time lists an interesting topic every time.
However, this one could've waited. Shaq just couldn't resist bringing it up.