Who is the Best Center Ever? (Bob Ryan Knows the Right Answer)

 June 3, 2011

Apropos my ranking of Shaquille O'Neal vying for the fourth spot on the all-time roster of NBA centers along with Moses Malone, and my assertion that no one could reasonably argue against Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-jabbar being the top three (in that order), a few people have asked about my well-known belief that Bill Walton was the greatest center we've ever had.

For those who don't know, here is my premise:

If Planet Earth were involved in a winner-take-all one-game basketball playoff against an alien invader, the loser to go into servitude for all eternity, my first pick of anyone who has ever played basketball in our known world would be a healthy Bill Walton. He was the most complete center ever, the perfect control tower through which to run both your offense and your defense.

But a career? Well, of course not. Injury prevented him from having the career he deserved. But for one game, I think he's the most important player who has ever laced up a sneaker.
So when I name the all-time centers I put him over on the side.


Lex said...


There is no need to explain or qualify.

You said everything there is to say before the jump.

Lex said...

BTW, this is the same logic he uses to explain why the 1985-86 team is the best ever.

In a one game showdown, winner take all, to defend the universe against alien invaders, what team are you gonna put out there on the floor?

Lex said...

bob wrote:

Now comes the best part. What separates the 1985-86 Celtics from the pack is the simple fact that this was the only team in the recorded history of Man
to bring a reasonably healthy Bill Walton off the bench. Bill Walton alone gave you a second unit. Bill Walton and Larry Bird also composed the most fiendish assault duo on slow-thinking, low-reacting defenders in the history of the NBA. A full healthy Bill Walton (if indeed there ever was such a thing) was the most influential player, at both ends, who has ever laced up a sneaker. To have him as a gleeful auxiliary player was a sinful luxury, and it was one K.C. Jones employed expertly.

And let's give K.C. his due. This was one course for which he was the
perfect horse. His decidedly laissez-faire approach was the appropriate style for this collection of savvy veterans. K.C. made about three decisions all
year, but he knew which three to make. His basic task was to make sure everyone knew what time the bus left for the arena. The Greatest Series That
Never Was did not take place between the 1985-86 Celtics and the 1986-87 Lakers. A series between the aforementioned Celtics versus the Lakers of Kareem-Magic-Worthy-Scott-Cooper-Thompson would have shaken the rafters. Alas,
the '86 Lakers didn't have Thompson and the '87 Celtics didn't have Walton.

Such is life.

I'm slipping the Bulls into the Top 5 out of respect for Michael. If anything, I'm being generous.

Lex said...

written in 1996

The 10 Best NBA Teams
(regular-season record, playoff record)
1. 1985-96 Celtics (67-15, 15-3): Choose your weapon and theirs would be
2. 1986-87 Lakers (65-17, 15-3): Consummate "Showtime."
3. 1966-67 76ers (68-13, 11-4): Wilt's finest hour.
4. 1971-72 Lakers (69-13, 12-3): 33 straight and a 51-ppg West-Goodrich
5. 1995-96 Bulls (72-10, 15-3): Came out snarling 99 percent of the time.
6. 1982-83 76ers (65-17, 12-1): Moses a major monster: "Fo-Five-Fo club."
7. 1964-65 Celtics (62-18, 8-4): Russell at his peak.
8. 1988-89 Pistons (63-19, 15-2): Bleep you, Buddy.
9. 1969-70 Knicks (60-22, 12-7): Personified concept of T-E-A-M.
10. 1976-77 Trail Blazers (49-33, 14-5): Jack Ramsey hoop fantasy come to
life. The NBA's All-Time "What-If?" aggregation. Team found itself in '77
playoffs to win title. Got off to 50-10 start in '77-'78 and would have won as
many subsequent titles as it chose, but Walton and three other starters got
hurt before the playoffs, and the team was never the same again

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