I love Shaquille O’Neal. Seriously. He was a great player and is a smart, very funny guy off the court. But damn, is the man delusional.
Shaq got involved in a little Twitter dustup this week with another hoops luminary, former Michael Jordan sidekick Scottie Pippen. Long story short, Shaq thinks the all-time greatest Lakers five would thump the all-time Bulls starting five.
Okay, probably true. The Lakers are the second greatest franchise ever and if you take away Jordan Chicago has … well, not a lot. No disrespect to the Bulls here, but this is just basic facts.
The issue is Shaq’s idea of who’s in that Laker starting five. See if you can spot the problem.
Actually, there a couple things wrong here. Shaq’s five, left to right: Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Elgin Baylor, Diesel himself, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. There’s no argument – at all – with Magic, Kareem and Baylor. Not only are they the team’s greatest players at their positions (PG, C and PF), they’re three of the best in league history at any position.
Kobe, though – sorry, but he’s riding pine behind Jerry West, a guy who was not only one of the greatest scorers in history, but who was an all-around great player who made his teammates better. This seems ridiculous to younger readers, maybe, those who never saw West play. But trust me, if you’re drafting all-time teams you take The Logo over The Mamba at shooting guard ten times out of ten.
The other issue is that Shaq seems to think you’d start two centers and no small forwards. Which you wouldn’t. Because, for the sake of argument, you aren’t an idiot. He kinda has to think this, I guess, since even he knows no way in hell is he better than Kareem. If you don’t get that much, just sit quietly while us adults talk.
Thing is, it’s not even clear that Shaq makes this team as a backup. Without question the other center spot goes to Wilt Chamberlain, a man who was a freak of nature both on the mattress and off. Hell, you might well argue that he starts ahead of Abdul–Jabbar. The only way you keep him off the roster is to argue that his best years were with the Warriors and to insist that you only care about their Laker careers specifically. Not sure that’s the way I’d play it, but it’s a valid position.
And what about the other great Laker center, George Mikan? The most dominant center of the pre-Bill Russell era, he won seven titles and in the process changed the game as he defined the modern big-man role. If we accept that you consider players within the context of the eras in which they played, there’s little way to argue that O’Neal was better than Mikan.
In other words, depending on your criteria, O’Neal might be the backup center on this hypothetical all-time Laker team or he might be the #4 center – and you’re not carrying four centers on a 12-13 man roster.
So who gets the SF slot? Hell, we can argue about this one if you like. Happy Hairston might have been the top pure #3 in team history, or maybe you convince me to move Kobe to the position and go small(er). Probably not, but catch me in the right mood and I may humor you for a few minutes.
I love you, Shaq, and I enjoy the entertainment value of the occasional Twitter war between celebrities. But let’s keep our trolling reality-based, shall we?
Probably best just to start five LA centers–Mikan, Shaq, Kareem, Wilt and Magic (1980 Finals, Game 6.)
Come to think of it, that line up might actually work. They’d score every single time. Not a lot of perimeter defense, but then again while at JU Artis successfully defended an entire team one possession while the other JU players sat on the floor at their end of the court. And if the Bulls did miss, aint gonna be no rebounds. Even with Dennis (or Artis for that matter. Who was on Shaq’s Bull team? Hopefully not Luc or Bill.)
Notice I couldnt bring myself to put Dwight Howard on the Laker list.