The greatest of all time debate is one that happens a lot in the NBA, with so many arguments about who is better than who.
Who is the greatest NBA Centre of all time? It is widely accepted that Kareem Abdul Jabbar is the greatest NBA Centre of all time thanks to his longevity, incredible scoring ability and a very long list of achievements.
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There are quite a few different players who could be classed as the greatest centres of all time. Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell dominated the early few decades of the NBA, with Russell being the most successful player in NBA history, winning 11 titles in 13 years with the Boston Celtics. Since then we have seen Hakeem Olajuwon and Moses Malone dominate from the centre position.
In terms of domination, Shaquille O’Neal has a really good case for the greatest centre of all time because of his physical dominance over opposing centres. But the consensus is that Kareem Abdul Jabbar is the greatest centre of all time for a few different reasons.
Why is Kareem Abdul Jabbar the best centre of all time?
There are essentially three key reasons why Kareem is the best centre of all time. The first is his scoring and defensive ability. At the time of writing, Kareem is the highest scorer in the history of the NBA. He is the only player to have a move that was pretty much unstoppable, with the skyhook being pretty much a guarantee.
The second reason why is simply longevity. We have not really seen an NBA player have a career as long as Kareem’s. He played for twenty years and still played well despite playing in his 40s. Never really struggling with injury, his longevity is part of the reason why Kareem is the highest scorer of all time, third in total rebounds, third in total blocks and surprisingly 33rd in total assists despite averaging just 3.6 per game.
Success is a pretty simple final reason. Kareem enjoyed one of the most successful and storied careers of all time. Having been drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks, Kareem led them to a title in 1971, where he won his first Finals MVP. Kareem won five more titles after he moved to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Six titles were accompanied by a huge amount of personal accolades. Kareem won the Finals MVP twice in his career, with the two titles being 14 years apart which is the biggest gap between a player’s first and second Finals MVP trophy. Kareem won NBA MVP six times, a feat that has not been achieved since by any player regardless of position.
Nineteen trips to the All-Star game shows just how long Kareem was playing for and he led the league in blocks four times as well as leading the league in scoring twice. The NBA legend has a list of accomplishments bettered by pretty much no one and it highlights exactly why Kareem is the best centre of all time.
Is Shaquille O’Neal the best centre of all time?
When Shaq retired in 2011, there were a few fans who called him the greatest centre of all time. There are some good reasons for it. There has been no player in the history of the NBA who has been more dominant on the court. Shaq could physically embarrass any NBA centre in the early 2000s at a level we have never seen before or since.
This physical dominance brought a lot of success for Shaq. To begin the 21st century, Shaq was the driving force in the Lakers three-peat as he won three straight Finals MVP awards, while Kobe Bryant was on his team, as well as regular season MVP in 2000. Shaq was selected to the All-NBA team 13 times as well as being All-NBA defensive team three times.
Shaq won his fourth title with the Miami Heat in 2006 and retired in 2011 having moved around the league a little in his last few seasons. In terms of dominance as a Centre, it is hard to look past Shaq as the most dominant centre of all time. But his accomplishments don’t quite stack up to those of Kareem’s.
Shaq finished his career with just the one regular season MVP title and he struggled with injuries, missing more than 20 games in 10 of his seasons. The lack of real consistency hurts Shaq when you compare him to Kareem who had a long and consistent NBA career where he performed well into his 40s. Shaq just does not have the overall career that Kareem did.
When Shaq chose to show up, he was unstoppable, however he often chose to take the easy road.
Is Wilt Chamberlain the best centre of all time?
The only man in NBA history with a 100-point game, there are certainly a few reasons why some people believe that Wilt Chamberlain is the greatest centre of all time. He was incredibly dominant in the early decades of the NBA to a statistical level we have never seen since.
He started off his NBA career with eight straight seasons averaging more than 30 points per game, including averaging 50.4 points per game in the 1961-62 season. Over his career, Wilt averaged 30.1 points and 22.9 rebounds per game. Wilt won seven scoring titles and eleven rebounding titles.
A two-time champion, Wilt also won four MVP trophies as well as being selected to the all-star team thirteen times. Wilt holds some pretty incredible records with the most points in a game with 100 and the most rebounds in a game with a whopping 55. Wilt absolutely dominated the early decades of the NBA.
But this also goes against him. It is difficult to compare Wilt to centres like Shaq and Kareem because they were playing in such a different era. The quality of the NBA has continued to increase and it is difficult to call Wilt the best centre of all time when he was not playing against the quality of today.
Wilt also does not quite stack up to the accomplishments of Kareem. Wilt retired with two titles despite all of his dominance compared to Kareem having six. Kareem has more MVP awards and more Finals MVP awards and so edges out Wilt in terms of the best centre of all time.