Dwight Howard’s press conference with Houston Rockets legends attending was the impetus for trying to figure out which NBA teams have the best big men of all-time. The quotes by Shaquille O’Neal and Kareem Abdul-Jabar about Howard not living up to the hype in Los Angeles helped as well.
So which NBA team had the best big men of all-time?
6. New York Knicks
The Knicks will always be best-known for Patrick Ewing, but Willis Reed had the biggest moment of any big man in team history and was part of the team’s last championship run. Tyson Chandler also has to be part of New York’s roster of great bigs because he has won a championship in Dallas and is one of the best centers in the league now.
5. Philadelphia 76ers
Moses Malone won Philly’s last title with Julius Erving, but many also remember Darryl Dawkins for his crafty game, shattering backboards and awesome nickname of “Chocolate Thunder” given to him by Stevie Wonder (of all people).
Wilt Chamberlain and Malone are the only ones to make this list for two teams. Wilt played in Philly for many years, but only four were with the Sixers. He won one NBA championship with the 76ers in 1967. And, of course, Dikembe Mutombo made his best run with Allen Iverson in reaching the NBA Finals in 2001, and is the only guy on this list with his own GEICO commercial.
4. San Antonio Spurs
David Robinson and Tim Duncan combined for two championships and three MVPs. Duncan also went on to win two more titles. Artis Gilmore was recently inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame as well, and he played five solid seasons with the Spurs, leading them to three playoff appearances and reached two All-Star games.
3. Boston Celtics
Bill Russell’s 11 rings say it all for him. After Russell, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish have to be part of the Celtics’ roster of great big men after combining with Larry Bird to win three championships. Kevin Garnett also has to be part of the picture as “the man” for Boston’s last title in 2008. Bill Walton helped out “big” in his Sixth Man of the Year award year for one of those Bird championships in 1986.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
This list has to to start with Wilt “the Stilt” Chamberlain and his stellar play for many years and one championship alongside Jerry West. Then, the other obvious names are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who teamed with Magic Johnson for five championships, and Shaquille O’Neal, who partnered with Kobe Bryant for three. The only controversial name may be Andrew Bynum. But, he dominated when he got two rings with the Lakers. Pau Gasol deserves mention too for those last two titles and for the part he played in making Bynum look so good.
Vlade Divac can’t be forgotten. He helped lead the Lakers to six playoffs in seven seasons and helped Johnson get to his last Finals appearance, losing to Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in their first championship season.
1. Houston Rockets
Dwight Howard has made the difference, as he puts Houston over the top besting all other NBA teams for the best collection of big men of all-time. It is up to Howard to maintain Houston’s spot atop the others. He will need multiple NBA Finals appearances and a championship to do so. Hakeem Olajuwon and his two championships are remembered for including Clyde Drexler with him for one of them and for his shakes and bakes in the post. And, don’t forget the original Twin Towers of Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson paired together.
Yao Ming makes the list for his eight All-Star appearances and awesome battles with Shaq. Then, there’s Moses Malone on his original NBA team, which he took to five straight playoff appearances and an NBA Finals loss to the Celtics. Elvin Hayes gets an honorable mention for finishing his career where he went to college. He also played for the Rockets when they were in San Diego, before moving to Houston.
It is the variety and contemporary nature of the Rockets that seals the deal. Without Sampson and Ming, the nod would have to go to the Lakers.
Getting all of those Rocket ‘big men’ together at the same time in one room was like seeing all the living U.S. Presidents at one time. It’s a rare occurrence, but Howard’s presser brought it together (but still no Malone in the pic above).
Howard Alperin is Managing Editor of AmericanizeSoccer.com