We've argued for some time that we'd take Tim Duncan over Shaquille O' Neal
if it were up to us. Greg Cote of the Miami Herald argues otherwise, pointing
out that Shaq's aura and stats make him a more dominant player.
There's no arguing his impact or his aura. But let's consider a couple
of things: before Phil Jackson got the Lakers to cooperate for a few years,
Shaq's line was that he had won at every level except the NBA and college, and
he was widely criticized for (at least the perception) of being more interested
in his rap career than basketball.
And Shaq wins the charisma contest, hands-down. Duncan has no charisma,
outside of his mastery of the game.
And that's the difference between the two. Duncan, as Cote says, is a
normal-sized big man. But with the possible exception of free throw
shooting, he has mastered the fundamentals of basketball. He leads by
example and continues to improve.
When their careers are over, our guess is that Duncan will likely have more
titles than O' Neal. At the end of the day, that's the only measure that
really counts. Both have a chance to win several more, but as his
explosive power game declines - and it already has - what will O' Neal turn to?
Duncan is a guy who relies on immense skill, and over the next half-decade, that
may win several more titles and put him in a class with Jordan and Magic.
Shaq could do that too, but our money is on Duncan to get there.