Wednesday, April 20, 2011
The Daily Rant: Will We Ever See (Physical) Dominance Again?
Last night while I was watching the Magic vs. Hawks game, Dwight Howard put on another show with 33 points and 19 rebounds and threw down some thunderous dunks. Say what you want about Howard's abilities or how much/little improvement he's shown in his offensive game, I think there's one thing we can all agree on. He's the most dominant center the NBA has seen since Shaquille O'Neal's glory days.
With O'Neal on the mend in Boston, I started to wonder if we've seen the last of Shaq. While his roles as Kazaam and Neon Boudreaux (Kazaam and Blue Chips) weren't dominant, his play in the paint for Orlando, Los Angeles, and Miami was. He still showed flashes in Phoenix and Cleveland, and for a time this year, Boston.
My question is, will we ever see someone as physically dominant again? Dwight Howard stands 6'11" and 265lbs. Shaq stood 7'1" 302lbs when he entered the league in 1992 and started ripping down backboards. O'Neal averaged at least 23.4 ppg his first 11 seasons in the NBA, including three times having an average over 29 ppg, and no fewer than 10.7 rebounds per game in those 11 seasons. Has career totals are very impressive as well, averaging 23.7ppg, 10.9rpg, and 2.3bpg, for totals of 28,596 points, 13,099 rebounds, and 2,732 blocks. Respectively those totals are good for 5th, 12th, and 7th all-time.
No one could guard him, and Hakeem Olajuwon stands as the only center who ever really took it to Shaq. Olajuwon hit jumper, fadeaway, and hook after jumper, fadeaway, and hook in the 1995 NBA Finals. That was the zenith of Olajuwon's career while O'Neal's was just starting to peak.
O'Neal will probably be the only 7'1" man capable of driving the entire length of the floor. Don't believe me, watch this. He was able to post-up against anyone. He had a powerful drop step move; he could shoot a hook over you; execute an up and under; or just simply go through you on his way to the rim. He could power 340lbs into the air and thunder home an alley-oop that shook not only the rim, but the entire arena. He took out nearly the entire Rockets team in this brawl, and probably would've ended Brad Miller's life had he connected on this haymaker. He threw around Andrew Bynum, and even wrestled the Big Show. Plain and simple, Shaq was a beast. If he could've learned to shoot foul shots, he'd probably have a shot at overtaking Kareem Adbdul-Jabbar or Karl Malone for 1st or 2nd all-time in points scored.
Yeah, his rap career flopped (Fu Shnickens), and his clothing line, T.W.I.S.M. (The World Is Mine - stolen from Scarface) failed. But, Shaq will remain the most physically imposing athlete of all-time, and I don't think there's a real comparison. Bo Jackson was the most physical and athletic running back I've everseen, and the Giants' Brandon Jacobs stands at 6'4" 264lbs. Frank Thomas was the biggest baseball player I've ever seen standing 6'5" 270lbs, but neither of them were as dominant as O'Neal for as long a stretch of time. Dwight Howard might be close, but I'll always remember Shaq. If this is the last we've seen of him on the hardwood, so be it. He got his rings, he left a legacy, and there's probably evidence of a bloodtrail in the paint on NBA floors around the league. Shaq is a living legend. Seriously, who else could do this? And no, I'm not talking about Mark Madsen dancing. Shaq, if this is the last of you, you'll be missed.
***An update to the Shaq blog, as my roommate gave me this little gem yesterday. Shaq gives the DDT to Sir Charles Barkley. Enjoy!***