The Demise of the ‘Big Man’ in the NBA

Shaquille O’Neal was right when he said he was The Last Big Man left in the league. First of all, I’d like to say there have been so many articles written about players such as Rasheed Wallace, who never played consistently up to his potential and reached superstar status, but not enough articles written about Shaq being too lazy to live up to his OWN potential.

Cleveland Cavaliers' Shaquille O'Neal (33) shoots on Chicago Bulls' Joakim Noah during the first quarter of Game 4 of their NBA Eastern Conference basketball playoff series in Chicago April 25, 2010. REUTERS/John Gress (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Think about it, here’s a guy who’s already a top 5 center of all time, but he could have been better. He only has as many regular season MVPs as Dirk Nowitzki and Allen Iverson, but less than Steve Nash! At his peak, he single-handedly makes your team a championship caliber team.

The only other big man still in the league who can say that is Tim Duncan. Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, and Hakeem Olajuwan are the 3 best big men of the last 20 years. Shaq had his freakish athleticism, quick feet, overpowering strength, and skills to complement his physical tools. He had a dependable jump hook, with an assortment of drop steps and counters, and when all else failed he would just back his man down and dunk over him.

Tim Duncan has his fundamental game with a plethora of low post moves, midrange jumpers, and his patented bank shot. He is also the best defender of the 2000-2010 era. Finally there’s Hakeem Olajuwan with his dream shake, amazing post moves, awesome fakes, and a fierce commitment to defense.

None of the big men in the league today come close to matching the skill level of Shaq, Hakeem, or Tim Duncan. Many of them play face-up games or play outside the paint. The Lakers are lucky that they have two skilled 7-footers who aren’t afraid to play with their backs-to-the-basket or defend the rim.

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