Shaq vs. Hakeem: Who Was the Better Center?

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Despite being retired NBA players, debates over the best center between Shaquille O’Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon have been making noise. It is not a wonder because both were the leading players in their respective teams.

Shaq’s sheer size and strength made him almost unstoppable, while Hakeem’s footwork and skillful post moves outperformed opponents without a sweat. To determine who truly deserves the best center between Shaq vs. Hakeem, evaluating their overall career performances would be better.

In this blog, Shaq vs. Hakeem will have a head-to-head comparison to see who is the best center in the history of the NBA.

Overview of Shaq's NBA CareerOverview of Shaq’s NBA Career

Looking closer at Shaq’s position, career stats, skills, etc., is better. Shaq started his basketball stint at an early age in high school. At the time, he was already standing 6 feet 10 inches—a towering record for a high school aspirant.

Little did he know, it was the start of something great. He even led his team to a remarkable 68-1 record for two years and carried his team to the state championship in his senior year. To better understand, check out the highlights of Shaq O’Neal’s NBA career below.

  • 1992 NBA Draft

Shaquille O’Neal made a majestic NBA debut in 1992 as the first overall pick by the Orlando Magic. Shaq did not come to play by proving he was a newly-born NBA legend with his remarkable rookie stats. 

On average, Shaq recorded 23.4 points, 13.9 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks per game during his rookie year. With his commanding presence and dominating dunks, he quickly earned himself a reputation for being one of the most dominant players.

  • 1993 Rookie of the Year and 1995 NBA Finals

Due to his impressive basketball skills and towering height, Shaquille O’Neal outperformed all rookies in his time. Hence, he was named the NBA Rookie of the Year in 1993. It was an incontestable feat because his basketball prowess as a rookie was evident.

Despite being new to the NBA, he continued to lead the Orlando Magic to new heights, helping them reach the NBA Finals in 1995. Although they ultimately lost to the Houston Rockets, he served as a critical player with only three years of experience.

  • Los Angeles Deal

After his momentous years with the Magic, Shaq signed with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1996 via a high-profile free agency deal. With this move, Shaq only served approximately four years with the Magic, but it was all worth the risk.

At the time, Kobe Bryant was still a young star, and both players formed unbeatable chemistry on the court. Tru enough, they led three consecutive-year NBA championships from 2000 to 2002. Meanwhile, Shaq cemented his elite player status.

  • Los Angeles Performance

Shaq reached new career heights with the Los Angles Lakers, including his NBA MVP Award in 2000. He also made it to the All-NBA First Team eight times. It had been less than ten years since he made an NBA entrance.

Most of all, Shaq had been selected to the All-Star Game 15 times. Shaq made himself one of, if not the best, center player in NBA history with this record. It was not just his height that made him stand out but his skills.

  • Miami Heat Move

Shaq left the Lakers for good and joined the Miami Heat in 2004. After leaving the Lakers, he instantly became a key player on the team alongside Dwayne Wade. As expected, they also formed excellent dynamics that led their team to new career highs.

The two helped the Miami Heat grab its first NBA championship in 2006. As for Shaq, it was his fourth NBA ring and proved that his spotlight was far from dimming any time soon. He was still carrying dominant forces on the NBA court.

  • Injury Era

After his NBA domination in the past seasons, Shaq O’Neal made a career slump in an unfortunate knee injury. In 2006-2007, he missed a lot of games which caused him to quit playing in the meantime. Ultimately, he missed 35 games in the same season.

Despite going into surgery, his precious record did not put to waste. He already set the bar too high that his injury could not downplay his record. Still, his elite NBA status was already cemented, and he remained one of the best centers in the league.

  • Greatest Center in NBA History

Shaquille O’Neal is undeniably one of the greatest NBA centers. Standing at 7’1″ and weighing over 300 pounds, he was a dominant force on the court who could overpower opponents with his strength and size. 

O’Neal’s impressive career spanned nearly two decades, during which he played for several teams, won multiple championships and earned numerous accolades and recognitions. He is the epitome of size and skills—a complete package.

Overview of Hakeem's NBA CareerOverview of Hakeem’s NBA Career

Hakeem’s position as a center is marked as one of the greatest in the history of the NBA. He earned the monicker “The Dream” because of his celestial skills—unparalleled defensive abilities, exceptional footwork, and dominant play post.

Even now, Hakeem is regarded as one of the most excellent centers the NBA has ever drafted. As a testament to his legendary NBA stint, he earned several accolades and awards due to his beyond-average skills. Check out the bulleted list below to know his detailed NBA stint.

  • 1984 NBA Draft

Olajuwon made a powerful NBA entrance in 1984 when the Houston Rockets selected him as their first overall pick. The Huston Rockets made the best decision as he cemented his name as the franchise’s most outstanding player in their history.

Despite being a rookie, he immediately made a commanding force on the court. He averaged 20.6 points, 11.9 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks per game in his rookie years. Come to think about it, it was only his first year in the career, but he already surpassed some career stats of average players.

  • Houston Rockets Championships

Hakeem consistently improved every game; he became skillful in defense and offense. In such a short time, he became a vital Rockets player and led the team into championships for two consecutive years in 1994 and 1995.

  • Finals MVP Awards 1994 and 1995

Hakeem’s performance during the playoffs of the 1994 and 1995 seasons of the NBA was among the greatest in NBA history. He led Houston to championships against the New York Knicks, averaging 26.9 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 3.9 blocks per game in the Finals.

He followed that up with another outstanding performance in the 1995 NBA Finals, averaging 32.8 points, 11.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 2.0 blocks per game. Hence, he quickly cleared the Finals MVP awards twice and consecutively.

  • NBA Most Valuable Player 1994 and NBA Defensive Player of the Year

Please do not get confused, and he also earned the MVP Award of the1994, aside from being named the NBA Finals MVP twice. It proves that his record can vouch for his skills, so he was recognized differently in the league.

He was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year as a defense god in 1993 and 1994. Olajuwon’s defense was a crucial part of his game, as he was known for his shot-blocking ability, quick hands, and lateral movement. 

  • Second All-Time Blocked Shots Record

Hakeem Olajuwon is known for his top-notch shot-blocking ability. Hence, he ranks second all-time in NBA history in blocked shots, with a career total of 3,830.

  • 18 Years of Greatness as a Center

Hakeem Olajuwon is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in NBA history, and his career speaks to that accolade. He played in the NBA for an impressive 18 seasons, amassing 26,946 points, 13,748 rebounds, and 3,830 blocked shots. 

This record puts him among the top ten players in NBA history in all three categories. He was also a two-time NBA champion, a 12-time All-Star, and a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame member.

Shaq vs. Hakeem_ A ComparisonShaq vs. Hakeem: A Comparison

Two highly praised centers in NBA history are Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaquille O’Neal. Similarly, they became two of the best players of their time, amassing prestigious accolades here and there. This blog will have Shaq vs. Hakeem’s head-to-head comparison.

Before anything else, it is essential to note that their style of play differs in various aspects.

Hakeem is known for his impressive footwork and shot-blocking abilities

Meanwhile, Shaq was known for his size and powerful dunks

Below is the rest of the discussion that makes both players equally great at some point in their careers.

Physical Attributes

Although both players were dominant in their NBA careers, Shaq slightly takes the lead in this category. Shaq towered 7 feet and 1 inch while weighing 325 pounds. Meanwhile, Hakeem lagged a little with his 7-foot height and 255-pound weight.

Shaq became a powerful force on the court because he utilized his physical advantages well. On the other hand, Hakeem had unparalleled footwork and quickness. He used his agility to create space and his quick hands to steal the ball from opponents to his advantage.

Skill Sets

In Shaq vs. Hakeem skills comparison, it is difficult to pick a side because Shaq and Hakeem had different approaches to every game—both have proven effective. Shaq was known for his brute strength, powerful dunks, dominant rebounds, and shot-blocking.

Meanwhile, Hakeem was a master of footwork and finesse, allowing him to score easily anywhere. His quick hand and anticipation skills made him a great defensive player.


Shaq takes the win by small a small margin when it comes to scoring. He relied on his size to dunk, averaging 23.7 points per game in his career. Hakeem averaged 21.8 points as a sharpshooter from any part of the court.


Hakeem is the clear winner in terms of rebounding. Hakeem had a career record of 11.1 per game, which is no surprise because he is known for his quickie hands, so he can quickly grab the ball. Meanwhile, Shaq has an average of 10.9 rebounds per game.


Again, Hakeem is leading the defense game with his career stats of 3.1 blocks per game and 1.7 steals. Shaq is slightly lagging, with an average of 2.4 blocks per game. It only proves that both players are equally great in their leagues.


In the case of leadership, there is no straightforward winning because both leadership skills are effective in their team strategies. Shaq was more of a charismatic leader who could uplift his teammates. Hakeem, on the other hand, was more reserved.

Comparison of Individual and Team Achievements

Shaq had more dominant seasons based on Shaq vs. Hakeem’s career stats. Shaq won four NBA rings, three Finals MVP awards, and 5-time All-Stars. Meanwhile, Hakeem has two championships, two Finals MVP awards, and was a 12-time All-Star.

NBA Playoff Records

In the Shaq vs. Hakeem playoffs record battle, both are in the same league. Shaq averaged 24.3 points and 11.6 rebounds per game, while Hakeem averaged 25.9 points and 11.2 rebounds. 

Nonetheless, Hakeem has a better record in the playoffs, with two championships and two Finals MVP awards. On the other hand, Shaq has four championships and three Finals MVP awards.


In terms of the Shaq vs. Hakeem finals, they are almost similar. Shaq won four NBA championships with three teams, while Hakeem won two with the Houston Rockets. However, Shaq is far better in championship record with three Finals MVP awards.

Shaq vs. Hakeem_ Who is the Most Dominant PlayerShaq vs. Hakeem: Who is the Most Dominant Player?

Shaq and Hakeem are both dominant players. They are undeniably beyond the average, so pitting them against each other is difficult since they have different styles.

Shaq is known for his impressive size and powerful dunks. Hence, this trademark made him so dominant on the court that almost no one could stop him. Even NBA legends can attest to his dominating force.

Meanwhile, Hakeem is equally talented as Shaq. He was known for his impressive defense styles, such as quick hands, sharp shoots, and impressive footwork. Similarly, NBA legends even feared when Hakeem was on the court.

Nonetheless, Shaq will win if the criteria are based on the player’s size.

Arguments for Shaq as the Better Center

It would be a lie to state that Shaq takes the lead in all aspects when it comes to judging who the better center is between him and Hakeem. It only happens that Shaq is more significant in size and used it well to dominate on the court. It is important to note that both are the most important centers in NBA history.

He had an impressive career average of 23.7 points and 10.9 rebounds per game, and his four championship rings and three Finals MVP awards solidify his place as one of the greatest players of all time. 

While Hakeem was also a dominant center, known for his versatility and defensive prowess, Shaq’s brute strength and dominant play in the paint give him the edge as a better center.

Did Shaq Play with HakeemDid Shaq Play with Hakeem?

Yes, Shaq and Hakeem faced off on several basketball occasions. The 1995 NBA Finals played between the Houston Rockets, and Orlando Magic are among the most notable.

Hakeem did not come to play and earned the Finals MVP award for the second consecutive year, aside from the fact that Houston Rockets—-his team—took home the trophy.

In the game’s highlights, both players are dominating their teams. The two players were like ice and fire and were eager to outperform the other. Here are the highlights of the game for your reference.


Wrapping Things Up: Shaq vs. Hakeem: Who Was the Better Center?

There is no clear winner in the debate on Shaq vs. Hakeem, and the answer could be subjective. It is important to note that they are equally great players. One may lead in one aspect and the other in the other criteria.

Hakeem and Shaq have different styles of play. Shaq is known for being a dunk god and a towering force, while Hakeem is known for impressive footwork and quick hands. Hence, it is up to you to decide which skills are most essential to lead a team into championships.

We hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, be sure to check out our other basketball FAQ articles here.

Explore more NBA player comparison articles below:

> Tim Duncan vs. Dirk Nowitzki: Who Was the Better Power Forward?

> Allen Iverson vs. Dwyane Wade: Who is Better Shooting Guard?

> Bird vs. Johnson: Who Was the Better Player?

> Kevin Durant vs. Kawhi Leonard: Who is the Better Small Forward?

> Kobe Bryant vs. Lebron James: Who is Better?

> Wilt vs. Kareem: Who is the Greatest Center of All Time?

> Stephen Curry vs. Damian Lillard: Who is the Best Shooter in the NBA?

> Russell Westbrook vs. James Harden: Who is the Better Point Guard?

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