Phil Jackson asked to rank Wilt Chamberlain and Shaquille O’Neal
UNFAIR COMPARISON

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.

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.