When the NBA All-Star Game came to Dallas in February 2010 I got to hop in a Hummer limo. Driven by a big guy. Who had no use for road rules, or police barriers.
As he ran over a bunch of traffic cones and headed toward a security barricade in front of the Dallas Convention Center, police stopped the Hummer. But when the driver rolled down the window, the policeman just smiled and waved us through.
"Shaq," said the cop, "be careful in that big ol' thang."
And with that, Shaquille O'Neal threw the policeman an autographed jersey and proceeded to his curbside drop-off just outside the doors of the NBA All-Star Weekend Celebrity Game.
Shaq was always bigger than rules. Bigger than his opponents. And, yes, bigger than life.
The NBA will miss the behemoth who announced his retirement yesterday. He was always the biggest personality in the league.
But where does he rank among all-time centers?
5. Bill Russell -- 11 rings, but shot only 44% as a center and never averaged more than 18 points.
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4. Shaquille O'Neal -- 4 rings, 5th all-time scoring and the most powerful force in NBA history.
3. Wilt Chamberlain -- Averaged 50 points and 25 rebounds in '62 and regularly dominated Russell.
2. Hakeem Olajuwon -- The most skilled offensive center in the history of basketball.
1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar -- NBA all-time leader in points scored and minutes played and owner of the game's most lethal shot, the Sky Hook.