Shaquille O'Neal and Wilt Chamberlain are dominating centers from different eras. Wilt set the benchmark for statistical dominance through his 14-year career, where he became the only man in history to score 100 points in an NBA game. Shaq was almost awarded the first-ever unanimous MVP in 2000 and completed a three-peat with the Lakers from 2000 to 2002, alongside Kobe Bryant.
People have often wondered how Shaq would do against Wilt if they both played in the same era. Wilt had the strength, athleticism, and skill to play in the '80s and '90s but did Shaq have the ability to play in the game the way they played it in the '60s?
Chamberlain was once asked about comparisons between him and a young Shaq who was in the league at the time but hadn't made a championship breakthrough yet. Wilt complemented Shaq's strength and acknowledged that O'Neal's style of play differed from his. However, he went on to say that Shaq would struggle with the physicality of the '60s centers.
"He plays an entirely different type of basketball game. He uses his physicality, he is a big strong young man. That works well in today's game. If he was facing me and other guys of my time? Not so good. I was bench pressing about 600-700 pounds."
The '60s had some incredible centers playing the sport. That era was led by Bill Russell, whose Boston Celtics dominated with him both as a player and a coach. Outside Bill, there were the likes of Walt Bellamy and Nate Thurmond.
Knowing what Shaq achieved after he chose to get heavier instead of staying lean, it's plausible to say that he would have dominated no matter what era he played. The NBA changed multiple rules because of the athletic force Shaq was. Athleticism is the one thing that translates well through every era, as there really is no substitute for natural ability.