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Kareem supreme in Super Center Final Four


May 31, 2005
Shaquille O'Neal is trying to get back to the NBA Finals. Shaq and Dwyane Wade have been a tough 1-2 punch for the Miami Heat this season, and Miami is up 2-1 against the Detroit Pistons, with Game 4 set for Tuesday night in Auburn Hills.

While watching Shaq in the middle for the Heat, you realize how few low-post centers are in the NBA today. That's why Milwaukee should pick Utah 7-footer Andrew Bogut No. 1 in the draft.

The low-post center is a lost breed. Most young big men today want to demonstrate different skills, such as the ability to dribble the ball between their legs and the long-range jumper. Being a strong inside dominator isn't much of a priority anymore.

Having said that, I had an interesting discussion the other day about the top centers of all time. Who would you pick as the premier big men in NBA history? Over the years, I've had different opinions, but here's my take now as I unveil my Super Center Final Four:

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the first player in NBA history to play 20 seasons.
1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
I would have to settle on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the most complete center in NBA history.

I recently read an in-depth interview conducted by New York Post writer Steve Serby with Julius Erving. Dr. J identified Kareem as the NBA center he would choose first, and I echo those sentiments.

Kareem was solid in every phase of the game. He could score in the low post, he had the sky hook as a signature shot and he had great passing ability against the double team. Kareem's teammates knew he always would be focused and give a winning performance.

The 7-foot-2 big man won six NBA championships – five with the Los Angeles Lakers and one with the Milwaukee Bucks.

2. Wilt Chamberlain
My pick at No. 2 is Wilt "The Stilt" Chamberlain. He might have been the greatest athlete of all time, considering his size, power and agility. He was a dominator, and I can hear some fans saying that he did a number on Kareem on a regular basis.

The bottom line is, in my book, Kareem was the most complete center. Chamberlain won two NBA championships, one with the Philadelphia 76ers and one with the Lakers.

3. Shaquille O'Neal
At No. 3 is Shaq, with his dominant strength and power. His physical game in the interior has been played in a different NBA era than the dominant big men of the past. O'Neal faces so many physically talented players, with so many more agile athletes at every position. Shaq won three straight NBA titles with the Lakers from 2000-02.

4. Bill Russell
I would place Bill Russell at No. 4. I can hear Boston Celtics fans screaming, "Are you serious?" A shot-blocker and rebounding machine, Russell was a winner, claiming 11 NBA championships with the Celtics in 13 seasons. But in terms of his skills and all-around game, I rank him fourth.

So there you have it, my Super Center Final Four … for a position that has virtually disappeared from the game today.

It looks like the Eastern Conference winner will face the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals. The Spurs have a commanding 3-1 series lead over the Phoenix Suns, who staved off a sweep with a win in Game 4. Game 5 is set for Wednesday in Phoenix (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET).

The combination of Tim Duncan and Tony Parker have been outstanding against the Suns. Manu Ginobili is a scoring machine who can also handle the rock. And Spurs coach Gregg Popovich never gets enough respect or credit.

Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question to Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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