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Inner-Circle Hall of Famers: 2000s & Summary

Posted by Neil Paine on January 6, 2010

Required reading material:

Who Are the “Inner-Circle” Hall of Famers? (Part I – Intro to Method)
Inner-Circle Hall of Famers: 1950s/1960s
Inner-Circle Hall of Famers: 1970s
Inner-Circle Hall of Famers: 1980s
Inner-Circle Hall of Famers: 1990s

2000s

Kobe Bryant ("The Black Mamba")

Position: Guard
Height: 6-6 Weight: 200 lbs.
Born: August 23, 1978 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
High School: Lower Merion in Ardmore, Pennsylvania

Year Age Team MediaPts Rank StatsPts Rank Composite %Possible Rank
1997 18 LAL 204.5 237.5 233.5 208.5 218.5 49.6% 208.5
1998 19 LAL 417.5 22.5 370.0 70 393.0 89.5% 27
1999 20 LAL 427.0 14 409.0 32 417.9 95.0% 18
2000 21 LAL 430.0 10 427.0 13 428.5 97.6% 11
2001 22 LAL 434.0 8 428.5 13.5 431.2 97.8% 9
2002 23 LAL 436.0 5 432.5 8.5 434.2 98.7% 4
2003 24 LAL 426.0 3 426.5 2.5 426.2 99.6% 4
2004 25 LAL 440.0 3 435.0 8 437.5 99.0% 4
2005 26 LAL 450.5 14.5 450.0 15 450.2 97.0% 14
2006 27 LAL 455.0 4 457.0 2 456.0 99.6% 3
2007 28 LAL 456.0 3 456.0 3 456.0 99.6% 2
2008 29 LAL 451.0 1 448.0 4 449.5 99.7% 2.5
2009 30 LAL 444.0 2 441.5 4.5 442.7 99.5% 3

No, Kobe hasn't been The Best Player in Basketball® at any time during his career (at least according to the media + stats method outlined above), but he has consistently been one of the ten best for a decade, and one of the five best for seven years in the last decade (not even including 2010, where he ranks 2nd in Win Shares and 5th in PER as of Monday's games). So there's no doubt that Bryant would deserve to be considered an Inner Circle legend if he retired right now, and at age 31 his career really shows no signs of slowing down, despite the constant pounding his body has endured over the course of 14 long NBA seasons (since he was 18 years old). I feel confident that he'll never surpass Michael Jordan as the greatest SG of all time, but Kobe's place in NBA history is fairly indelible -- along with Kevin Garnett the year before, Bryant's jump from high school to the NBA in 1996 proved that a preps-to-pros phenom could eventually grow into an all-time great without the benefit of college basketball, opening the door in subsequent years for a number of players who probably shouldn't have gone pro, but eventually leading to the drafting of LeBron James and Dwight Howard in 2003 and '04. Yes, Moses Malone technically proved that point 20 years before, but not until Garnett and Bryant went pro in the 1990s did you see a change in the general culture of prep basketball, to the point that über-talented kids jumping to the NBA was the rule and not the exception. You can debate how much good that did the game (certainly David Stern felt it was doing harm, and the league instituted the age minimum in 2006), but you can't argue that Bryant's generation hasn't changed basketball forever.

Tim Duncan ("The Big Fundamental")

Position: Forward-Center
Height: 6-11 Weight: 248 lbs.
Born: April 25, 1976 in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
High School: Saint Dunstan's Episcopal in Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
College: Wake Forest University

Year Age Team MediaPts Rank StatsPts Rank Composite %Possible Rank
1998 21 SAS 435.0 5 435.5 4.5 435.2 99.1% 4
1999 22 SAS 438.0 3 437.0 4 437.5 99.4% 2
2000 23 SAS 437.0 3 434.5 5.5 435.7 99.3% 5
2001 24 SAS 440.0 2 439.0 3 439.5 99.7% 2
2002 25 SAS 440.0 1 440.0 1 440.0 100.0% 1
2003 26 SAS 428.0 1 425.0 4 426.5 99.6% 2.5
2004 27 SAS 441.0 2 441.0 2 441.0 99.8% 2
2005 28 SAS 461.0 4 453.0 12 457.0 98.5% 7
2006 29 SAS 451.0 8 445.5 13.5 448.2 97.9% 10
2007 30 SAS 455.0 4 455.0 4 455.0 99.3% 4
2008 31 SAS 445.0 7 441.5 10.5 443.2 98.3% 8
2009 32 SAS 436.5 9.5 438.0 8 437.2 98.3% 8

There's no debating this one -- Timmy is the defining player on the best franchise of the post-Jordan era. He's arguably the greatest power forward of all time (ardent Karl Malone apologists notwithstanding), a 4-time NBA champion and 3-time Finals MVP who hadn't ranked outside the top 10 in regular-season MVP voting in his entire career until last year (yeah, let that sink in for a second). His resume is impeccable, his defense impenetrable, and his commitment to fundamentals brings out the old-school fan in all of us. Has he been a bit overrated in recent years? Well, the stats have declared him a top-5 player just once since 2004 (though he could break back in this year), and his All-NBA placement (more 2nd-team selections over the past 4 years than in the rest of his career combined) suggests the same thing, that Timmy is declining. But he was the best player on an NBA champion as recently as 2½ years ago, and if finishing as "only" the 8th-best player in basketball is considered a "decline", what does that say about how awesome the rest of his career has been? Simply put, Duncan is as much of a lock for the Inner Circle as an active player can be.

Kevin Garnett ("The Big Ticket")

Position: Forward
Height: 6-11 Weight: 220 lbs.
Born: May 19, 1976 in Mauldin, South Carolina
High School: Farragut Academy in Chicago, Illinois

Year Age Team MediaPts Rank StatsPts Rank Composite %Possible Rank
1996 19 MIN 202.0 228 341.0 89 262.5 61.2% 91
1997 20 MIN 417.0 25 403.0 39 409.9 93.0% 28
1998 21 MIN 417.5 22.5 432.0 8 424.7 96.7% 12
1999 22 MIN 431.0 10 430.5 10.5 430.7 97.9% 9
2000 23 MIN 438.0 2 436.0 4 437.0 99.5% 2
2001 24 MIN 436.0 6 437.5 4.5 436.7 99.0% 4
2002 25 MIN 431.0 10 437.5 3.5 434.2 98.7% 5
2003 26 MIN 427.0 2 426.5 2.5 426.7 99.7% 1
2004 27 MIN 442.0 1 442.0 1 442.0 100.0% 1
2005 28 MIN 455.0 10 464.0 1 459.5 99.0% 4
2006 29 MIN 438.5 20.5 454.5 4.5 446.4 97.5% 12
2007 30 MIN 449.0 10 453.5 5.5 451.2 98.5% 7
2008 31 BOS 449.0 3 443.5 8.5 446.2 98.9% 6
2009 32 BOS 425.5 20.5 402.0 44 413.6 92.9% 23

Underappreciated by clownish talking heads during his peak, KG was the NBA's top player in 2003 and 2004, with plus/minus dominance even extending through 2009. Garnett took a lot of unfair criticism in Minnesota because the team was only moderately successful in the playoffs once under KG's watch (2004). The counter-argument, of course, was that KG always played well in the postseason (PER > 24 in all but 3 playoffs from 97-04, with 2 coming before age 22) but was saddled with a clueless GM and a mediocre supporting cast. In retrospect, the botched Joe Smith cap-tampering case, the decision to replace Chauncey Billups with Troy Hudson, Wally Szczerbiak's profound drop-off without KG, Garnett's instant impact on the Celtics' defense, and the firing of Kevin McHale (just to name a few events) seem like pretty strong evidence that KG was in fact playing -- and excelling -- despite having the deck stacked against him. It's also funny how the talk of KG being a choker disappeared after he meshed with 2 future Hall of Famers in Boston to win a championship in 2008. KG didn't play any differently (he was always intense, always a fierce defender), but with a strong supporting cast by his side at last, Garnett was finally able to taste team success -- and in the reactionary, cause-and-effect-confused world of sports journalism, he had become a "Winner". True hoops fans, on the other hand, knew KG was a winner all along.

Shaquille O'Neal ("The Diesel")

Position: Center
Height: 7-1 Weight: 325 lbs.
Born: March 6, 1972 in Newark, New Jersey
High School: Cole in San Antonio, Texas
College: Louisiana State University

Year Age Team MediaPts Rank StatsPts Rank Composite %Possible Rank
1993 20 ORL 377.0 14 385.0 6 381.0 97.7% 10
1994 21 ORL 396.0 8 402.0 2 399.0 99.0% 5
1995 22 ORL 404.5 3.5 406.0 2 405.2 99.6% 3
1996 23 ORL 419.0 11 411.0 19 415.0 96.7% 15
1997 24 LAL 431.0 11 421.5 20.5 426.2 96.6% 13
1998 25 LAL 436.0 4 430.0 10 433.0 98.6% 7
1999 26 LAL 435.0 6 439.5 1.5 437.2 99.4% 3
2000 27 LAL 439.0 1 439.0 1 439.0 100.0% 1
2001 28 LAL 439.0 3 441.0 1 440.0 99.8% 1
2002 29 LAL 438.0 3 437.5 3.5 437.7 99.5% 3
2003 30 LAL 424.0 5 423.0 6 423.5 98.9% 5
2004 31 LAL 439.0 4 434.0 9 436.5 98.8% 5
2005 32 MIA 463.0 2 458.0 7 460.5 99.2% 3
2006 33 MIA 448.0 11 404.0 55 425.4 92.9% 24
2007 34 MIA 442.0 17 329.0 130 381.3 83.3% 30
2008 35 TOT 211.5 240.5 310.5 141.5 256.3 56.8% 141.5
2009 36 PHO 432.5 13.5 414.0 32 423.1 95.1% 18

I still get the feeling that Shaq's peak is underrated when I read a ranking by a rings-crazed fan that lists him behind Hakeem. Really? Now, maybe you discredit Shaq for his free throw struggles, or the fact that Shaq played alongside early-peak Kobe at least for the Lakers' 2002 title while Olajuwon's best teammates were Kenny Smith, Otis Thorpe, and a past-his-peak Clyde Drexler. But in their primes, was any modern player as unstoppable as Shaq? Including Olajuwon, MJ, Larry, or whoever else you want to throw in there? Because when Shaq was in shape and motivated to dominate, nobody could defend him, much less stop him. We don't have adjusted +/- going back to 2000, but according to SPM Shaq added 10.5 points of efficiency differential above average to the Lakers in his prime, produced 1.15 points per possession, and was the man in the middle for a defense that allowed just 0.98 points per possession. During Olajuwon's title years he added roughly 8 points of efficiency differential, produced 1.09 points per possession (on a smaller % of team possessions), and anchored Ds in '94 and '95 that combined to allow 1.04 points per possession. Combine that with the fact that O'Neal's dunking down low was every bit as unguardable as the vaunted Dream Shake (if not more so -- Olajuwon turned 54% of his possessions into points, while O'Neal did it on 59%), and the case for Shaq as the best center since Russell/Wilt Kareem seems pretty obvious. Maybe it's his personality, his feud with Kobe, his late-career team-jumping, or whatever, but I haven't seen another 3-time Finals MVP who dominated as much as Shaq be taken less seriously by people who should know better. And that's a shame because when Shaq was at his very best, he could do whatever he wanted in the paint.

On the outside looking in: Allen Iverson, Jason Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki, Ray Allen

Inner Circle according to HoF Probability: O'Neal, Duncan, Bryant, Garnett

The Inner Circle:

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37 Responses to “Inner-Circle Hall of Famers: 2000s & Summary”

  1. izzy Says:

    The list for the 2000's is pretty set in stone--i don't think anyone could make an argument for anyone else. It was truly a great era for PF's, with Duncan, Garnett, and Dirk as well. I tend to agree, Shaq was amazing in his prime, and his Finals stats were absolutely mindblowing.

    2000: 38.0 points, 16.7 rebounds and 2.67 blocks
    2001: 33.0 points, 15.6 rebounds and 3.40 blocks
    2002: 36.3 points, 12.3 rebounds and 2.75 blocks

    I was too lazy to find his FG% and other stats, but I think that's all you need to know right there. These stats, coupled with his team's dominance, tell you a large part of the story (minus having the luxury of Kobe and Phil by his side). Shaquille in his prime is the most unguardable force ever. It is also worth noting that he took more physical abuse (and inflicted the most ;) ) in the post than anyone...players were hanging from his shoulders in their futile effort to stop him.

  2. Romain Says:

    Looking at the whole list I'd say 3 names do not belong there:
    - Dolph Schayes: a great player from the 50's but I would not call him Inner circle HOF, he never won an MVP and won "only" one title;
    - Elvin Hayes: he only makes the list thanks to his points/rebounds numbers and his longevity (only 9 missed games in 16 seasons), however I really do not think he was ever considered as the best player in the league, and it seems he struggled big time in the crunch;
    - David Robinson: amazing stats for his first 7 seasons don't make up for the way he repeatedly chocked in the playoffs and the fact that he probably would never even have played in a final if not for Duncan.

  3. Chris Says:

    Sorry, but your forgetting one big sky-hooking captain when you say that "the case for Shaq as the best center since Russell/Wilt seems pretty obvious." It's obviously Kareem, not Shaq.

  4. izzy Says:

    Agreed. Kareem holds that honor. David Robinson does deserve to there though, because most teams require multiple stars to win a title...as Neil stated, Drobs PER was higher than Duncan's for the first championship.

  5. Neil Paine Says:

    You're right, I definitely screwed up there. Shaq's the best since Kareem.

  6. Jason J Says:

    I'm a little surprised Dirk didn't make it given that he outranked everybody in WS for the '00s. Not that I'm complaining. These are the correct names IMO.

    The only overall missing name that bugs me is Cousy. I understand why he didn't make it, but I disagree with the result.

    Position break down:

    Pg - 2
    Sg - 3
    Sf - 4
    Pf - 7 (including Duncan and Schayes)
    C - 8

    Maybe Berri was right... ;-)

  7. Downpuppy Says:

    In your ranking system, these 4 cover the #1 spot from 2000-2004.

    Is LBJ #1 ever since?

  8. Neil Paine Says:

    Since 04, it's gone like this:

    2005 - Dirk Nowitzki
    2006 - Lebron James
    2007 - Dirk Nowitzki
    2008 - Chris Paul
    2009 - LeBron James

    Right now, you have to think the group from the next era would almost certainly include those 3. The 4th hasn't really separated himself from the pack -- maybe it's D-Wade, he's had some years in the Top 3, but it seems like he still has to do more to really establish himself as a strong #4. If you look at HoF probability, the next 4 right now would be LeBron, Dirk, Wade, and Nash (if you're going to count him for the first few years of the decade, which I assume is all he'll last). Paul has time to jump in once he gets to 400 career games played, he'll probably leapfrog Nash. But it's very early... Who knows, someone like John Wall could tear up the next decade, or a young gun like Kevin Durant, Tyreke Evans, Brandon Roy, etc. could push his way in. It's going to be a great decade to be an NBA fan, that's for sure.

  9. AYC Says:

    I want to make the case for Hakeem>Shaq

    1)Defense wins championships, right? Dream is the all-time leader in blocks, a 2 time DPOY, and 9-time All-Defense. IMO, he's the best defender since Russell. Shaq is maybe a little underrated on Dee, but he only has hmself to blame; for most of his career, he underacheived on that end of the floor. But even at his best, he was no Hakeem

    2)Shaq has a well known Achille's Heel of course; he's terrible from the FT line. Hakeem was excellent from the line by big man standards.

    3)Postseason play is when you separate the greats from the pretenders, and no other elite player's production jumped in the playoffs like Hakeem's; his reg season stats aren't as good as Shaq's, but his playoff stats are better. His scoring jumped from 21.8 ppg to 25.9 ppg; that's the highest postseason avg of ANY center; his rebound, assist, block at free throw avgs also rose.

    4) Finally, I reject the silly "he has more rings" argument; winning is a TEAM accomplishment. Shaq's teams had a nasty habit of getting swept out of the playoffs before Phil and Kobe came along, and Shaq wasn't even the best player on the 06 Heat. Shaq also benefited from the low-ebb in talent during the almost unwatchable post-Jordan, pre-Lebron "Deadball" era.

    Hakeem played during the most competitive era in history; people rip him for winning while MJ played baseball, but he still faced tougher comp than Shaq during the 3-peat; and Hakeem decisively outplayed several HOF centers during his 3 finals runs: Kareem, Parish and Walton, Ewing, Robinson and Shaq himself.

  10. Anthony Coleman Says:

    I agree with your assessment about Shaq being the best center since Kareem, and subjectively speaking his 2000 campaign was the second best season since the merger (only Michael Jordan's 1991 was better). However, I think you did some obvious cherry picking when it came to Shaq's defensive prowess because except for 2000 his best defensive seasons weren't on par with Olajuwon's or Robinson's. In fact you weren't being honest because you for some reason combined the Rockets 94 and 95 championship years, and only used the 00 Lakers and didn't combine their 01 team defensive ratings, and you didn't go by the league average.

    In 94 the Rockets were the second best defensive team behind the legendary Ewing-Knicks defensive squad. They gave up 101.4 points per 100 possessions, and were 4.9 points above the league average. The next year, with Olajuwon hurt for 10 games, they dropped to 107.4 points per 100 possessions, it was the 12th best total in the league and .9 points above the league average. Combined and averaged those teams were 104.4 points per 100 possessions and 2.9 points above league average. Lets look at the 2000 and 2001 Lakers.

    The Lakers of 2000 were the best defensive team in basketball, holding their opponents to 98.2 points per 100 possessions and 5.9 points above league average. Definitely better than the 94 Rockets. However, in 2001, with Shaq missing missing 8 games, the Lakers dropped to 104.8 points per 100 possessions, which was the 21st pest total in the league and 1.8 points BELOW league average. Combined the 94 and 95 Rockets gave up 2.9 points above league average while the 00 and 01 Lakers gave up 2.0. It seems that the Rockets, if we go by regular season success, was the better defensive team. In fact it seems that the stats favor Olajuwon in 94 as still the better defensive player than Shaq in 2000 and that the different team defensive success may have been a function of teammates than the individual performances. And if we take the best defensive seasons head to head, it is pretty obvious that The Dream] was a better defender than Shaq was at his best. Same thing goes for David Robinson.

    Shaq is a legend and in my opinion he is the 4th greatest player of all-time, but his defense couldn't compare to that of The Dream or The Admiral.

  11. Anthony Coleman Says:

    After looking at the years of the Inner circles I think my tiering still remains the same:

    tier 1 (in the conversation for G.O.A.T)

    Jordan
    Wilt
    Kareem

    tier 2 (not quite the greatest, but separated from the rest of the pack)
    Shaq

    tier 3 (inner changerable pieces, hard to separate all-time greats.)
    Magic, Bird, Duncan, Hakeem, Russell, both Malones, Dr. J, Jerry West, Kobe (finally having that one fantastic playoff performance managed to get him inside this level), David Robinson.

    However, it must be said though that the two Malones and Robinson is almost paradoxical. Personal I think that Moses has become severely underrated for reasons I can't seem to pinpoint. He won three MVPs, could have easily won it again in 1981, and even though his PER in 1983 isn't all time great, in the context of the rest of the league there has been very, very, very few who were head and shoulders above everybody else in the league in terms of dominance from both the Regular Season and The Playoffs. Sure his peak came to a very abrupt end, but he was still a high quality player for years after. Karl was inconsistent in the playoffs (it wasn't just the Bulls finals appearances folks, his production trailed off considerably in the spring time) mixing great and mediocre performances, but his longevity and regular season peak is hard to ignore. Robinson is the same as Malone, minus the fact that his production was severely limited later in his career because of the drop in minutes.

  12. Neil Paine Says:

    The problem with Shaq is that after 2000, he's hurt, he's feuding with Kobe, he's not motivated, his toe is bothering him, he's overweight, he thinks he can flip the switch on come playoff time, etc. It's hard to pinpoint when Shaq was at his peak aside from during the playoffs those years and all of the 2000 season. It wasn't necessarily cherry-picking, just trying to find a time when we all agree both players were at their peaks. Hakeem maybe didn't try his hardest in either the 94 or 95 regular seasons (as evidenced by his playoff numbers), but he wasn't as blatantly loafing as Shaq was at times. Since we were going by regular season stats, I felt like the only full season where we got Shaq's complete undivided attention was 2000. In 2001, the Lakers were pretty obviously coasting until the playoffs -- they were only 6th in SRS that year before unleashing holy hell on the opposition during the postseason. I should run the playoff numbers for Hakeem 94 & 95 vs. Shaq 00-02 and do a follow-up post, but for this all I had to go on was regular-season numbers. I hope that made some sense, because I don't have anything against Hakeem.

  13. AYC Says:

    I think the history of weight problems, conditioning and injury issues, and lack of motivation are all legitimate reasons for why Shaq isn't more highly regarded; his talent was immense, but he was an underacheiver.

    Shaq has only had 5 seasons with over 75 games played, and that includes his first 3 seasons. Considering his physical gifts, it's a crime that Shaq never led the league in rebounding or blocks; I think it's also noteworthy that his career high in both categories came as a rookie.

    As for Hakeem "loafing", I never saw any evidence of that; nobody accuses MJ of loafing in the reg season because his playoff stats were better. And while Dream's overall postseason stats are much better than his career reg-season stats, that's not really the case during his prime years of 93-95. Here are his reg and post season PER for those 3 years:

    Reg: 27.3, 25.3, 26.0
    Post: 26.7, 27.7, 26.7

    The only significant difference was in 94, and it wasn't that big. I also wonder if the PER that year was skewed by the ridulously slow pace enforced by the Knicks in the finals

  14. Anon Says:

    Well all I have to say is that if having over 13 playoff WS/3K min, over 30 playoff WS overall for your career, leading the league four times in playoff WS (including the '95 season) and playoff PER four times isn't "bringing it" in the playoffs, then I don't know what is. And keep in mind that alot of this came during an era where defenses thrived in the NBA.

    Shaq > Hakeem, and I don't see how he is not.

  15. Romain Says:

    I have to come back to D-Rob here.

    I really love advanced stats, I think they're very useful in many ways and very funny to play with, however we have to keep some kind of perspective and not take for granted everything advanced stats tell us.

    I mean, when some people here say that D-Rob was the best player on the 99 Spurs, I'm sorry but it's just not true!
    I don't care what PER or SPM on a per minute basis, just look at the playoff tapes and you'll see that there's not even a room for debate: Duncan was the best player on that team.
    It's Duncan who had back-to-back 37pts-14 rbs / 33pts-14 rbs to complete the Lakers sweep, who had 33pts-16rbs in the first finals game of his career, and who had 28pts-18rbs / 31pts-9rbs in games 4 and 5 to beat a Knicks team that was obviously inferior but also very resourceful and that gave everything it had.

    Robinson was still very efficient that year, but he had settled for a sidekick role, and to his credit he really made his mind into doing everything he possibly could to make life easier for Duncan. That shows how great a teammate he was. But that does not make him the best player of this team.

    I might add that Robinson was 12th in MVP voting that season and Duncan 3rd (it was the lock-out season, but still 50 games means something right?), and that Duncan was the Finals MVP.

    So if you stick to your rule "have to be the best player on at least one finals team", then Robinson does not belong to the list.

  16. AYC Says:

    Anon, I don't think anybody said Shaq didn't "bring it" in the playoffs. Shaq was a great postseason performer; but Hakeem was better...

    The career postseason stats of Hakeem and Shaq:

    25.9 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.7 spg, 3.3 bpg, .528 fg%, .719 ft%, 2.9 TOpg, 145 g
    25.2 ppg, 12.1 rpg, 2.8 apg, 0.6 spg, 2.2 bpg, .564 fg%, .501 ft%, 3.1 TOpg, 203 g

    During their primes; 93-95 for Dream, 00-02 for Shaq:

    29.8 ppg, 11.4 rpg, 4.4 apg, 1.5 spg, 3.7 bpg, .524 fg%, .754 ft%, 3.5 TOpg, 57 g
    29.9 ppg, 14.5 rpg, 3.0 apg, 0.5 spg, 2.4 bpg, .551.fg%, .532 fg%, 3.0 TOpg, 58 g

    Considering the huge advantage Hakeem has as a FT shooter and defender, the unadulterated stats favor him as the better postseason player

  17. Anthony Coleman Says:

    "The problem with Shaq is that after 2000, he's hurt, he's feuding with Kobe, he's not motivated, his toe is bothering him, he's overweight, he thinks he can flip the switch on come playoff time, etc. It's hard to pinpoint when Shaq was at his peak aside from during the playoffs those years and all of the 2000 season. It wasn't necessarily cherry-picking, just trying to find a time when we all agree both players were at their peaks.
    Hakeem maybe didn't try his hardest in either the 94 or 95 regular seasons (as evidenced by his playoff numbers), but he wasn't as blatantly loafing as Shaq was at times. Since we were going by regular season stats, I felt like the only full season where we got Shaq's complete undivided attention was 2000. In 2001, the Lakers were pretty obviously coasting until the playoffs -- they were only 6th in SRS that year before unleashing holy hell on the opposition during the postseason. I should run the playoff numbers for Hakeem 94 & 95 vs. Shaq 00-02 and do a follow-up post, but for this all I had to go on was regular-season numbers. I hope that made some sense, because I don't have anything against Hakeem."

    No that really didn't make much sense to me at all. Again it seemed to me that you were trying to make a case that at Shaq's absolute peak he was a better defender than at Olajuwon's absolute peak by going at the regular season defensive efficiency numbers and in doing so gave preferential treatment to Shaq. You ignored the 01 Lakers lackluster defensive regular season performance, while still averaging out the defensive efficiencies of the 95 and 94 Rockets teams. You then give excuses to The Lakers 2001 regular season performance (the Kobe-Shaq feud, Shaq's nagging injuries, we also need to add Kobe being hurt for a chunk of the season doing them no favors too), but didn't take into account the Rockets regular season problems (Olajuwon's injuries, the soft lineup finally catching up to them until they finally stole Drexler in that trade). Plus you didn't go by difference between league average defense to give a correct view of the team's relative defensive performance in the context of the era.

    The 95 Rockets wasn't on par with '01 Lakers team, but in the 00 and 01 regular season Shaq was clearly the superior offensive player than Olajuwon in 94 and 95 (in the playoffs however it is very, very close), and we should look just as much at the playoff defensive numbers as we do the regular season ones. But it still doesn't change the fact that you used questionable measures to suggest that Shaq was defensively superior to Olajuwon at their respective peaks.

  18. Neil Paine Says:

    I guess we'll just have to run a post looking at the playoff numbers for both players during their championship years, then.

  19. Anon Says:

    "The career postseason stats of Hakeem and Shaq:

    25.9 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.7 spg, 3.3 bpg, .528 fg%, .719 ft%, 2.9 TOpg, 145 g
    25.2 ppg, 12.1 rpg, 2.8 apg, 0.6 spg, 2.2 bpg, .564 fg%, .501 ft%, 3.1 TOpg, 203 g"

    And are these numbers pace and minute adjusted? Do they consider that Shaq is more efficient offensively despite carrying larger offensive loads than Hakeem? These just some of the things (among others that I haven't mentioned) that are in Shaq's favor, and you can't just conveniently leave them out of your breakdowns of the players.

  20. Anon Says:

    I think I agree with Anthony about Shaq versus Hakeem/David on defense. Shaq is the best overall player of the three, but I think that his contemporaries were better on the defensive end during their careers.

  21. Downpuppy Says:

    The only fair way to compare centers from different eras is through their movie careers.

    Wilt played Boombata in Conan & did one TV movie.

    Kareem has 21 minor roles in 37 years, including Airplane.

    Shaq had starring roles in Blue Chips & Kazaam, & minor in Steel, Freddie Got Fingered, The Wash & Scary Movie 4.

    Between Airplane & Kazaam, the choice is clear.

    #1:Kareem
    #2:Wilt
    #3: Shaq

  22. AYC Says:

    Anon, how can you call Shaq more efficient offensively, when Hakeem shot over 70% from the line, and he barely shot over 50%?

    Also, why should we reward Shaq for playing in an era of terrible offense? When it comes to elite players, the extent to which production is tied to pace (or minutes) is debatable; take Wilt out of the equation, and the elite players of the 60's aren't any more productive than the elite players of the last 10 years.

    A faster pace (or more minutes) matters alot for roleplayers, but not so much for superstars; a superstar is going to "get his" regardless

  23. Anthony Coleman Says:

    AYC:
    Anon, how can you call Shaq more efficient offensively, when Hakeem shot over 70% from the line, and he barely shot over 50%?

    Dude just stop.

    Olajuwon was a vastly superior free throw shooter to Shaq, but The Diesel was a better scorer because even if we take into account his bad free throw shooting his true shooting percentage was much higher because he was unstoppable from the floor. Plus you're missing another important point: Shaq was less turnover prone. Shaq wasn't on par with Olajuwon as a defender, but he was most certainly the better scorer.

    In the playoffs though they are near equal as scorers, Olajuwon the better passer, Shaq the far better offensive rebounder, slightly better defensive rebounder, Olajuwon the better shot blocker and of course the better at getting steals. Look pretty damn near even to me. I would love to see the playoff paper, but I wonder about the methods.

    Personally I've become a fan of going by Game Scores for the playoffs (BTW Neil what happened to them? I can't find them in the yearly game logs anymore) because of two reasons: it tells me who have been more consistent and who benefited from huge games and low peaks to get a heftier average and because each game is so crucial. I had looked at both Shaq's 2000 and Olajuwon's 1994 post season game by game game score and I came to a crude conclusion. Shaq had nine huge games, but Olajuwon was slightly more consistent, and much like with John Hollinger stated The Dream's finals performance against the Knicks was probably more impressive seeing that he was able to score that many points against one of the greatest defenses ever (and despite being the only Rocket who could consistently create his own shot while maintaining a high efficiency) and was able to shut down Ewing over seven games.

  24. Neil Paine Says:

    In his career, Shaq was/is a lot more efficient offensively than Hakeem. There's more to offensive efficiency than free throw % -- Shaq shot 70 points higher from the field, got to the line 4 more times per 36 minutes (there's value in drawing fouls even if you don't make the shots), grabbed a higher % of available offensive rebounds, and turned the ball over less, all while using a higher % of offensive possessions. I'll grant you the defensive argument, at least until we look at their playoff careers, but between Shaq and Hakeem on offense, it's no contest in the Big Aristotle's favor.

    As far as crediting Shaq for playing in an era of decreased efficiency, even if you don't take into account changing offensive environments (which you ought to, because a lower league ORtg typically means a rule change of playing style/philosophy change that is beyond any player's control), Shaq's career ORtg of 113 is higher than Hakeem's 108. That's without taking into account the fact that each point of ORtg was more valuable during Shaq's era than during Hakeem's.

    And if you had proof that "superstars get theirs" regardless of pace, I'd enjoy seeing it.

  25. Neil Paine Says:

    You know, I think the Game Score column might have gone away when Justin updated the gamelogs and added the advanced stats option to them yesterday. We'll see if we can add them back at some point.

  26. AYC Says:

    Neil, AC, I thought I made it clear that I was comparing Shaq and Hakeem based solely on postseason performance; I'm very aware that Shaq's reg season stats are better. But the playoffs are a different story; Dream avgd more PPG and APG, shot much better from the line and avgd fewer TOpg; he closed the gap from the field too. Hakeem's postseason TS% is .569, compared to .565 for Shaq.

    When I talked about stars "getting their's", I was referring to scoring. When we leave out Wilt, the highest scoring seasons of the 60's aren't any better than the best years of the last 10 years:

    R. Barry 35.6 ppg K. Bryant 35.4
    E.Baylor 34.8 ppg A.Iverson 33.0
    E.Baylor 34.0 ppg T.McGrady 32.1
    W. Bellamy 31.6 ppg K. Bryant 31.6
    O. Robertson 31.4 ppg L. James 31.4

    To me, Wilt is the exception that proves the rule; if there was ever a player who took full advantage of a fast pace (and whole lot of minutes) it's him. But the ridiculous stats that he put up have as much to do with weak comp as pace; imagine if DRob had played his entire career against the Clippers?

  27. Anon Says:

    AYC,

    We clearly get you're a huge Hakeem fan. But your posts are becoming more and more

    Shaq's career postseason TS% (and also his offensive rating) is slightly lower than Hakeem's, but that doesn't account for the fact that he was often doing more for his team offensively. You can't just compare per game statistics and shooting percentages in a vacuum; the slight disadvantage Shaq had in shooting efficiency he more than made up for with his shot-creation from the field. The fact that Shaq could put up close to Hakeem's line from a per game/minute standpoint while handling more offensive possessions for his teams is a testament to his offensive greatness.

    Also, what does the Clippers have to do with this? Hakeem had craptastic teams to play against in his time just as much as Shaq did (the pre-Dirk Mavericks and pre-Garnett Timberwolves, anyone)? But Shaq played in an era where points were harder to come by and defenses were more efficient, and yet he thorughouly dominated his competition in his prime. Really, there is no debate about who the better player is offensively here.

    It's "Kazaam".

  28. Anthony Coleman Says:

    Shaq's career postseason TS% (and also his offensive rating) is slightly lower than Hakeem's, but that doesn't account for the fact that he was often doing more for his team offensively. You can't just compare per game statistics and shooting percentages in a vacuum; the slight disadvantage Shaq had in shooting efficiency he more than made up for with his shot-creation from the field. The fact that Shaq could put up close to Hakeem's line from a per game/minute standpoint while handling more offensive possessions for his teams is a testament to his offensive greatness.

    We agree Anon that the Dream's regular season performance wasn't on par with Shaqs. There simply isn't anyway to look at it. But yeah AYC is right: Shaq and Hakeem were near equal offensive juggernauts in the post season. However, it must be said that Shaq's TS% and 25 PPG average was done in many more games. Still the Dream's best post season scoring performance is better than Shaq's. He averaged less minutes, but still managed to score more points (33 to 31) with a slightly better TS% (56.0 to 55.6). Pure offensive speaking, Shaq still keeps a huge edge when it comes to offensive rebounds (13.3 % to 5.6%), but Olajuwon produced an amazing-for-a-center 4.5 assists per game to Shaq's 3.1 and had a lower turnover percentage once you factor in those assists. Also then we get into the real muck of the problem: what to do about the Dream's phenomenal-but-all-too-short late 80s playoff performances?

  29. izzy Says:

    jeez. shaq was better on offense, dream was better on defense. I would cite stats but most people have done that. And from there, to truely settle the debate, we turn to Shaq's role in Steel where he was clearly the man. Go Shaq.

  30. pageup Says:

    baylor averaged 38.3 in 48 games in 61-62, which means the way he was going (is there a game log for that year?) he probably would have averaged at least 36 in a full season on a team where west averaged 30.8 (has there ever been another team where two players averaged 30 a game?, about it). baylor also averaged 4.6 assists and 18.6 rebounds, not bad...

  31. AYC Says:

    Anon, my clippers comment was made with regard to Wilt in the 60's, not Shaq. My point was that the ridiculous stats he put up in that era had as much to do with poor competition as the faster pace. When Robinson scored 71 against the clips, it wasn't because of the pace, it was because the clips were a terrible defensive team thanks to dubious talent. IMO a 30 pt scorer from the last 10 years is no different than a 30pt scorer from the 70's/80's/90's; I think a faster pace disproportionately helps role-players, not elite scorers.

    As for Baylor in 62, he was healthy but was called up by the military; he played most of his games on weekend passes; which means he didn't have to deal with the everyday grind of 4-5 games a week; also, it's unlikely that West would've avgd 30 that year if Baylor hadn't missed 40% of the season.

  32. Snoopy2006 Says:

    To me, there's many ways of measuring the greatness of a player. I'd be interested to hear your take on Duncan vs Shaq, Neil (unless you've written about it already). The reason I pick Duncan-Shaq is because the two are central to a greater basketball debate: peaks vs longevity. Now to me, Shaq at his best is unquestionably better than Duncan at his best. Shaq was the most dominant player in the league during the early part of this decade. But to me, Duncan is more consistently great over a long span, but Shaq's peak with a championship team (while shorter-lived) surpassed Duncan's peak. I'd be interested to know if the numbers support that qualitative assessment.

    On an unrelated note - where does Duncan rank among all-time big men? I'm a bit tired of the "PF" designation; Duncan has played a center's role for a significant portion of his career. His game screams "center" more than those of Barkley or Malone. So for the sake of argument, let's look at "bigs" instead of separating 4s and 5s.

    When Duncan is placed in the same category as Hakeem, Kareem, Wilt, Russell, and Shaq, where exactly does he rank? Anyone have any strong opinions on this?

  33. GURU Says:

    AYC, Hakeem Prime time wasnt from 93 till 95...

  34. GURU Says:

    C- Shaq / TDuncan
    PF- DNowitzky / KGarnet
    SF- LJames /
    SG- Kobe / Ginobli
    PG- SNash / JKidd

  35. Hank Says:

    This list looks good, but I'm confused now. In the intro post you said at least one title was required, but it looks like the requirement was waived along the way... Anyway, I'm happy to see Barkley and the Mailman included.

  36. Neil Paine Says:

    I dropped the requirement because the commenters and I had a discussion and agreed that a ring wasn't necessarily a requirement to be an inner-circle guy.

  37. phil Says:

    i would like to chime in on the shaq/hakeem debate, if i may.

    everyone here is clearly a very committed fan of basketball. i like to think of myself as one too. and none of us can for a moment doubt that both shaq and hakeem were phenomenal talents who helped to redefine the center position during their respective eras of dominance. but, as basketball fans, we ought to appraise the type of basketball each played, and factor that into the calculus we use to evaluate arguments over who is the better player. having done this, i respectfully submit that hakeem was a better player.

    this has less to do with how beautifully and effortlessly hakeem played the game (although his agility, footwork, and finesse in the post was truly unequaled), and has much more to do with the fact that shaq did not so much play basketball as he was allowed to make a mockery of its rules. throughout his career, he was permitted to violate the offensive foul rules with absolute impunity. due to his physical gifts, he was able to throw any and every defender off the court, and he regularly did. the problem is that, in basketball, a player is not supposed to be able to do that. i cannot really fault shaq for taking advantage of the leeway that the nba was all to eager to give him in disregarding rules to which every other player still had to adhere to. but i certainly think that the favorable treatment he received throughout his career should count against him when sizing him up against comparable talents who succeeded within the rules of the game. after all, if the rules were enforced against him as he played throughout his best years, he would have fouled out of the vast majority of games. i don't doubt that he would have adapted to the rules had they been enforced, but given his inability throughout his career to develop anything resembling a jumpshot, it's a fair assumption that his gaudy numbers would not look the same (especially his trademark 60% field goal percentage).

    i assure you, i do not submit this as some hyper-nostalgic old-timer who is averse to the evolution of the game. rather, i think that inequitable enforcement of basic basketball rules should be taken into account.

    in a very close contest, i give hakeem the nod, because he not only played incredibly well, but he played within the rules.