For many, the question of the best big man in NBA history comes down to either Shaquille O’Neal or Houston Rockets legendary center Hakeem Olajuwon. Granted, there have also been others, including a pair of San Antonio Spurs legends in David Robinson and Tim Duncan, not to mention 2003-04 MVP Kevin Garnett, who is easily one of the most skilled bigs in the history of the game.
There are others, of course, such as Karl Malone and Patrick Ewing, which shows how difficult it can be to narrow it down to one. Because of said difficulty, the common elimination method has been to weed out those who never won titles, which is why Malone and Ewing have been largely left out of that discussion.
If it were possible, it would be easier to find players that played alongside several of those players at one point or another in their career, but that would also be difficult, as that would limit the number of opinions. Obviously not many players had the fortune of playing with that many great bigs during their basketball lives.
Robert Horry chooses Houston Rockets legend Hakeem Olajuwon as best big in NBA history with key exception
However, Robert Horry did, which is largely why he’s won 7 NBA titles. Horry joined FanSided for an exclusive interview in which he discussed a number of things, including who he would choose if he was forced to pick between Duncan, O’Neal, and the Houston Rockets legend Hakeem Olajuwon.
Horry too, struggled to give a firm answer.
“I’m taking Dream. I just think Dream’s body of work and who he can guard is incredible.
But if I could get the 2000-01 Shaqulle O’Neal for his whole entire career, I’d go with that guy because that year he was in shape, he won MVP, and he looked good on the court.
He was a monster. He was the best player in the game at the time.”
O’Neal and Olajuwon went head-to-head in the 1995 NBA Finals when the Houston Rockets faced off against the Orlando Magic, who had just eliminated Michael Jordan‘s Chicago Bulls and, well let’s just say it wasn’t very competitive. The Magic were swept during that series and Olajuwon was named Finals MVP, posting averages of 32.8 points, 11.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks.
O’Neal has gone on record and stated that he was dominated by Olajuwon during that series.
“Hakeem busted my a-… We beat Houston that year.
Hakeem would get his and I would get mine. So we were like ‘I got him. He’s gonna put up his numbers but he’s gonna have to guard me too.’
In the Finals he was just a different beast. I was like da-, this is a different Hakeem right here.”
Unfortunately that was the only time to two went head-to-head in a championship series, which is a travesty, as it would have been nice to have seen both players face off again for all the marbles.
But as it pertains to which player is better, let’s just say they were both great in their own right and any team that had either player would have been in good shape.