Skip to main content

Phil Jackson asked to rank Wilt Chamberlain and Shaquille O'Neal


In an exciting conversation with John Salley back in 2012, Phil Jackson answered many intriguing questions and shared fascinating stories from his illustrious career. 

Among the many anecdotes discussed in the interview, perhaps the most interesting one occurred when someone from the audience asked Phil to compare Shaq and Wilt's strengths and weaknesses and rank them if possible. Phil played with Chamberlain and coached O'Neal for several years, so he's probably one of the most qualified people to make such a comparison.

In terms of weaknesses, Phil shared something interesting about Wilt's lack of aggressiveness in specific situations.

I played six years against Wilt Chamberlain, and he was a guy that was slow to anger, a tremendous athlete. He played under his limitations a lot. I had to play center one year, and one of the things you were thought was — just get into Wilt's path; he doesn't like offensive fouls; if you fake an offensive foul or take charge to speak, he really stops becoming aggressive. That was one thing that was a limitation in Wilt's game.

Phil Jackson, via Live Talks

Wilt has changed the game of basketball, broke so many records, and is, to this day, still one of the greatest that played the game. Here's what Jackson shared in terms of Wilt's strengths.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

He had the fallback turn-around shot; he had the dipper, finger-roll, he led the league in assists one year. Shaquille didn't have quite the same athleticism that Wilt had, he had the bounce, and he had the speed, but he didn't have the endurance.

Phil Jackson, via Live Talks

Something that Jackosn mentioned as the best thing Wilt ever did during his career is the fact that he played 48 minutes per game for the entire season, missing only 2 or 3 minutes in one overtime that season. Ridiculous.

Shaq had a jump-hook, whereas Wilt didn't have a jump hook.

Phil Jackson, via Live Talks

One of the inevitable comparisons Phil made was free-throw shooting. Shaq's career percentage was 52.7%, while Wilt's was 51.1%. So Shaq has a slight edge.

Free-throw shooting (pause for laughter), I think that free throw shooting was a big weakness on both sides.

Phil Jackson, via Live Talks

Ultimately, Phil did not rank the two players as we might expect, but he gave an exceptional insight into how they played the game of basketball.

Reggie Miller doing the choke sign

Reggie Miller on talking to New York Knicks fans: 'They love to come up and do the choke sign. They think it’s so cool'

Reggie Miller said most Knicks fans still hate him and they let him know about it by doing doing his iconic choke taunt in 1995.

Michael Jordan more popular than Al Gore, Chelsea Clinton: Sesame Street poll

"I couldn’t do anything!" - Michael Jordan once named the only player he couldn't dominate

Michael Jordan loved the competition and he often dominated his rivals. But shockingly, he wasn't able to do so against one player.

The first time Larry Bird and Magic Johnson matched up in the NBA

Larry Bird pointed out his similarities with Magic Johnson: 'We were winners, there was no question about that'

Larry Bird talked about what he thinks were his similarities with his ultimate rival Magic Johnson.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar calls out Kyrie Irving

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar blasts Kyrie Irving for sharing an Alex Jones video: "Kyrie Irving would be dismissed as a comical buffoon if it weren’t for his influence"

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was incensed after Kyrie Irving’s deliberate attempt to sow misinformation and spread conspiracy theories among those who look up to him.

Grant Hill recalls competing against the original Dream Team

Grant Hill recalls beating the original Dream Team in a scrimmage game: "We already knew that no one would believe us if we told them"

Grant Hill reflects what it meant for him and other college players when they actually beat the original Dream Team before the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona in a scrimmage game

WWE star Logan Paul and Dwight Howard

WWE legend Triple H’s dare to Dwight Howard: “Be like Logan Paul, Bad Bunny, Tyson Fury”

Dwight Howard doesn't just want to be a run-of-the-mill professional wrestler.

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett

"I’m still a Timberwolf until I die, as I am a Celtic" - Kevin Garnett addresses rift with Minnesota Timberwolves

Kevin Garnett is not in good terms with the Minnesota Timberwolves but his love for the city has never changed.