Updated: March 6, 2007

DAILY DIME: SPECIAL EDITION The game's greatest giants ever

Magic Johnson

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Teams: Milwaukee Bucks (1969-1975), Los Angeles Lakers (1975-1989)

Titles: 6 (1971, 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988)

Honors: 19-time All-Star, 6-time MVP (1971-72, 1974, 1976, 1977, 1980), 2-time Finals MVP (1971, 1985), Rookie of the Year (1970), Hall of Fame

The player: Like no other player, Abdul-Jabbar embodied the maestro team brilliance of Bill Russell and the individual excellence of Wilt Chamberlain. His NBA cup runneth over: six championships, a record six MVPs and a Finals MVP award ... at 38 years old!

Possessed the single most unstoppable shot in NBA history -- the sky hook -- but more than that, he was clutch, consistent and underrated in the toughness department.

He was the starting center on six championship teams and had the presence of mind to cohabitate with stars like Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson and James Worthy.

He's the all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points; was named to the All-NBA Defensive team 11 times; and is the only modern era player to lead the league at least once in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots, minutes played, field-goal percentage and PER.

Photo credit: Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images

WILT CHAMBERLAIN
Wilt Chamberlain
Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images

Teams: Philadelphia Warriors (1959-1962), San Francisco Warriors (1962-1965), Philadelphia 76ers (1965-1968), Los Angeles Lakers (1968-1973)

Titles: 2 (1967, 1972)

Honors: 13-time All-Star, 4-time MVP (1960, 1966, 1967, 1968); Finals MVP (1972), Rookie of the Year (1960), Hall of Fame

The player: Dominating. Unstoppable. Shaq before there was Shaq. The league changed the rules because of Chamberlain. He was an exceptional athlete (he high-jumped 6'6" in high school) and the most iconic player of his era.

He accumulated statistics like no one else ever has: leading the league in scoring his first seven years, rebounds 11 times, and even assists once. In 1968, Wilt the Stilt averaged 24.3 points, 23.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game.

He didn't win as many titles as Bill Russell -- Wilt won two -- but he rarely had a supporting cast comprised of All-Stars.

Numbers like 100 and 20,000 will forever be linked to The Big Dipper. But his most unbreakable record? When he averaged 48.5 minutes for the 1961-62 season.



BILL RUSSELL
Bill Russell
Dick Raphael/NBAE/Getty Images

Teams: Boston Celtics (1956-1969)

Titles: 11 (1957, 1959-66, 1968-69)

Honors: 12-time All-Star, 5-time MVP (1958, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1965), Hall of Fame

The player: The greatest champion in basketball history. Russell was the perfect teammate, with a mean streak and a hunger to win.

His 11 rings say it all.

A spidery defender, great rebounder and fastbreak igniter, Russell was everything the Celtics needed from 1957 through 1969. His shot-blocking skills changed basketball.

"He brought a new sound to basketball," Red Auerbach once said, "the sound of his footsteps."



SHAQUILLE O'NEAL
Shaquille O'Neal
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Teams: Orlando Magic (1992-1996), Los Angeles Lakers (1996-2004), Miami Heat (2004-present)

Titles: 4 (2000, 2001, 2002, 2006)

Honors: 14-time All-Star, MVP (2000), 3-time Finals MVP (2000, 2001, 2002), Rookie of the Year (1993)

The player: The self-proclaimed MDE -- Most Dominant Ever -- is as physically talented as anyone who's ever played the game. He's the perfect combination of strength and quickness; a bigger, more powerful reincarnation of Wilt.

Smart, skilled and ultra-competitive, the Big Diesel instills fear in his opponents and makes his teammates better. And rings seem to follow him wherever he goes.

The best big-man ambassador the game has ever had; Shaq is larger than life on and off the court.

TOP 10 CENTERS
It's Shaq's 35th birthday, so it's time to stack up the greatest centers to ever play the game.

We compiled top-10 rankings and comments from a panel of ESPN.com's NBA experts, and then pooled those rankings to produce this composite top-10 list (see box below).

The voters were:

Henry Abbott, TrueHoop.com (HA)
Greg Anthony, NBA analyst (GA)
Andrew Ayres, ESPN.com NBA editor (AA)
Jon Barry, NBA analyst (JB)
Chris Broussard, ESPN The Magazine (CB)
Ric Bucher, ESPN The Magazine (RB)
John Hollinger, ESPN.com Insider (JH)
Scoop Jackson, ESPN.com Page 2 columnist (SJ)
Tim Legler, NBA analyst (TL)
Jamal Mashburn, NBA analyst (JM)
Jim O'Brien, ESPN.com Insider (JO)
Chris Ramsay, ESPN.com NBA editor (CR)
Jack Ramsay, NBA analyst (JR)
Chris Sheridan, ESPN.com Insider (CS)
Ken Shouler, ESPN.com (KS)
Marc Stein, ESPN.com senior writer (MS)
David Thorpe, Scouts Inc. (DT)
Kiki Vandeweghe, NBA analyst (KV)
Royce Webb, ESPN.com NBA editor (RW)
Jeff Weltman, Scouts Inc. (JW)

Players received 10 points for a first-place vote, nine points for second, and so on down to one point for a 10th-place vote.

The experts have given their opinion. Now it's your turn, SportsNation.

Vote in our poll to tell us which of the all-time greats is your favorite, which was the best passer, which was the best rebounder and which you'd start a team with. And rank the top 15 of all time.

Vote: Your favorite? | Rank 'em: Top 15 of all time

Send your thoughts on the best centers of all time

Greatest PGs of all time | Greatest PFs of all time


CAREER STATISTICS

Years PPG RPG BPG PER
Abdul-Jabbar 20 24.6 11.2 2.6 24.6
Chamberlain 14 30.1 22.9 N/A 26.2
Russell 13 15.1 22.5 N/A 18.9
O'Neal 14 26.3 11.8 2.5 27.8
Olajuwon 18 21.8 11.1 3.1 23.6
Malone 21 20.3 12.3 1.3 22.0
Walton 10 13.3 10.5 2.2 20.0
Robinson 14 21.1 10.6 3.0 26.2
Mikan 7 23.1 13.4 N/A 27.1
Ewing 17 21.0 9.8 2.4 21.0


HAKEEM OLAJUWON
Hakeem Olajuwon
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Teams: Houston Rockets (1984-2001), Toronto Raptors (2001-02)

Titles: 2 (1994, 1995)

Honors: 12-time All-Star, MVP (1994), two-time Finals MVP (1994, 1995)

The player: Olajuwon was the most graceful pivot man of them all; he had some of the best moves the post has ever seen, most notably the "Dream Shake."

A great all-around player and the all-time shot-block leader, Olajuwon might as well have been created in a lab: perfect height, speed, quickness, power, agility, disposition, shooting ability and footwork.

Oh, and he was a winner. He outplayed Ewing, Robinson and O'Neal to lead Houston to back-to-back titles and his 21.8 ppg career average shot up to 25.9 in the postseason. Few have been better than The Dream in June.

MOSES MALONE
Moses Malone
Ken Regan/NBAE via Getty Images

Teams: Utah Stars (1974-75), Spirits of St. Louis (1975-76), Buffalo Braves (1976), Houston Rockets (1976-1982), Philadelphia 76ers (1983-1986, 1993-1994), Washington Bullets (1986-1988), Atlanta Hawks (1988-1991), Milwaukee Bucks (1991-93), San Antonio Spurs (1994-95)

Titles: 1 (1983)

Honors: 11-time NBA All-Star, ABA All-Star, 3-time MVP (1979, 1982, 1983), Finals MVP (1983). Hall of Fame

The player: Malone was a relentless scorer and rebounder -- the best offensive rebounder ever. He led the league in rebounding six times in seven years (1979-85).

Perhaps, the most underrated center of them all, Malone could dominate -- at 6-10 -- without dominating the ball. His pounding style got him to the line more times than any player in NBA history until Karl Malone outlasted his record.

He also perfected the "shot pass" to himself and scored 29,850 points (combined ABA and NBA), which puts him behind only Abdul-Jabbar, Malone, Michael Jordan, Chamberlain and Julius Erving.



BILL WALTON
Bill Walton
Dick Raphael/NBAE via Getty Images

Teams: Portland Trail Blazers (1974-1978), San Diego Clippers (1979-1980, 1982-1984), Los Angeles Clippers (1984-1985), Boston Celtics (1985-1987)

Titles: 2 (1977, 1986)

Honors: Two-time All-Star; Finals MVP (1977), MVP (1978), Sixth Man of the Year (1986), Hall of Fame

The player: Still the greatest passing big man the game has seen. His combination of passing, passion and fundamentals elevated his teammates and the league.

Injuries hampered his career, but when he was healthy he was fantastically deadly. He gave defenses every reason to double-team him, but punished them for doing so better than anyone. His selflessness helped the Blazers win their only title.

There quite simply haven't been many better at making others better.



DAVID ROBINSON
David Robinson
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

Teams: San Antonio Spurs (1989-2003)

Titles: 2 (1999, 2003)

Honors: 10-time NBA All-Star, MVP (1995), Rookie of the Year (1990), Defensive Player of the Year (1992)

The player: A taller, more skilled version of Russell, Robinson possessed all the gifts -- he blocked shots, rebounded, scored and defended. The Admiral brought incredible quickness to the center position and competed at a supreme level with grace.

He also won a scoring title in 1994. But perhaps his greatest accomplishment was switching from an offensive force to a defensive presence to get his two rings.



GEORGE MIKAN
George Mikan
NBAE Photos/NBAE/Getty Images

Teams: Minneapolis Lakers (1947-1956), also played in the NBL and the BAA.

Titles: 7 (1947-NBL, 1948-NBL, 1949-BAA, 1950, 1952, 1953, 1954)

Honors: 4-time All-Star, Hall of Fame

The player: The first of the great centers, Mikan was the league's first star and truly dominant player. They changed the whole league, including widening the lane, just to try to stop him.

He invented the hook shot and had a thousand ways to score around the hoop. He scared everyone. And he looked like a congenial professor.

Mikan was overpowering inside, using his bulk (6-10, 245) and skill to average 22.6 ppg and led his teams to seven championships. He led the NBL, BAA and NBA in scoring from 1947 through 1952.



PATRICK EWING
Patrick Ewing
Nathaniel S. Butler/ NBAE/ Getty Images

Teams: New York Knicks (1985-2000), Seattle SuperSonics (2000-01), Orlando Magic (2001-02)

Titles: 0

Honors: 11-time All-Star, Rookie of the Year (1986)

The player: He was durable, consistent and dominant at both ends of the floor. Regarded as the "greatest outside shooting center."

The only thing missing for Ewing was the ring. He was Batman without a Robin during the prime of his career. But his will to win drove his teams and embodied the city of New York. And earned him the title of "ultimate warrior" year in and year out.

THE VOTE

Player Voters
  HA GA AA JB CB RB JH SJ TL JM JO CR JR CS KS MS DT KV RW JW Total
Kareem 8 9 9 9 9 8 8 10 10 8 8 7 8 8 10 9 10 8 10 8 174
Wilt 9 7 8 10 10 9 9 7 9 10 9 10 9 9 9 7 8 9 9 6 173
Russell 10 10 10 8 7 10 4 8 7 9 10 8 10 10 8 10 5 10 4 10 168
Shaq 6 8 7 7 8 6 10 6 6 5 6 9 7 6 6 8 9 7 6 9 142
Hakeem 7 6 6 6 6 7 7 9 8 7 5 6 6 5 7 6 7 4 8 7 130
Moses -- 5 4 4 5 5 5 5 4 1 -- 5 2 3 5 5 4 6 5 3 76
Walton 5 -- -- 5 1 4 -- 1 5 -- 7 4 5 -- -- 4 3 5 3 4 56
Robinson -- 4 1 1 4 1 6 -- 3 6 -- 3 -- 4 3 2 6 -- 7 -- 51
Mikan 4 1 3 -- -- 2 3 4 2 2 4 1 4 7 4 3 -- 1 -- 1 46
Ewing -- 2 -- 2 3 -- 2 2 1 -- 2 2 -- 1 2 -- -- -- 2 2 23
Others receiving votes (points): Willis Reed (12), Arvydas Sabonis (12), Bob Lanier (8), Dave Cowens (6), Nate Thurmond (6), Robert Parish (4), Bob McAdoo (4), Artis Gilmore (3), Spencer Haywood (3), Wes Unseld (2), Dwight Howard (1)