Wilt Chamberlain thought Gheorghe Muresan was better than Shaquille O’Neal

Wilt Chamberlain thought Gheorghe Muresan was better than Shaquille O’Neal

Gheorghe Muresan is mostly remembered in the NBA world for sharing the title of the tallest NBA basketball player in history with Manute Bol. At 7’7”, the Romanian center was a sight to see, as that made him a real fan favorite. Unfortunately, injuries stopped him from having a better and longer career, as he had to retire after just 7 seasons in the NBA. Still, Muresan managed to have a couple of good seasons with the Washington Bullets, averaging 14.5 ppg, 9.6 rpg, and 2.3 bpg in his best year.

Muresan showed a pretty impressive shooting touch for his size and presented a tough matchup. If it wasn’t for the knee and back injuries, the Romanian maybe could have even notched an All-Star appearance. The four seasons with the Bullets were the highlight of Murseasn’s career, as he spent the last three seasons of his NBA career with the Nets mainly being injured, after which Gheorghe left the NBA in 2000.

Muresan was never considered one of the best big men, even in his prime. Still, back in 1997, one of the greatest centers ever, Wilt Chamberlain, shared a pretty controversial statement in his book, saying Muresan is in many ways more talented than Shaquille O’Neal. Wilt later elaborated on that statement in an interview and explained his side:

“You leaving off something. I’m saying as they call fouls today, Shaq gets away with what I would consider murder…Shaq is allowed maybe to score some points that maybe he wouldn’t get, but if you made a straight situation and gave the same rules and regulations to Shaq that you give to Gheorghe Muresan. Muresan has a better touch around the basket; he can score more points. If the Bullets had enough sense to give him the ball 20-25 times and let him shoot the ball like somebody else, Muresan may be averaging 30 points per game. But for some odd reason, they don’t want to give the ball to Muresan like that.”

Wilt Chamberlain, The Universe Galaxy

A pretty interesting and controversial point of view from “The Big Dipper,” but that was his style. Shaq in 1997 was already proclaimed as the best big man in the game, even though he was yet to hit his prime. To have anyone at the time ranked higher than Shaq was an afterthought, especially someone of Muresan’s level. But Wilt obviously had the highest regard for Muresan and his game, as he wanted to see the Bullets involve him more in the offense. Muresan was getting 10 shots per game in his best season, as more shots and opportunities could have resulted in Muresan averaging some Shaq-like numbers, in Wilt’s opinion.

That point has some logic, but you have to look at the fact that Muresan didn’t have the highest endurance due to his size. A player of that frame gets fatigued much quicker, so coaches had to use him in limited stints. Still, even if he got those types of opportunities, I doubt he could have been in the conversation with Shaq. Sure Muresan had the better touch, but “The Diesel” topped him in every other aspect, from strength to mobility. A part of the reason for this view could be the fact Wilt wasn’t the biggest fan of Shaq and his way of bullying opponents. Nevertheless, a very interesting take from one of the greats.