NBA

Shaquille O'Neal.

23 years ago today, Shaquille O'Neal made history - where's the next Shaq?

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For a lot of teams in today's NBA, centers are becoming like dinosaur fossils. Once they reigned supreme, but, now, the game, or in this instance the world, has evolved past them.

While you work out if that analogy has any legs whatsoever, allow me to digress.

If you take one short look at the likes of the Warriors and the Lakers, players like Zaza Pachulia and Timofey Mozgov are there purely for screens and rebounds, and that's about it.

The days of Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon and Wilt Chamberlain are a thing of the literal past. The combination of size and skill used to be unmatched, but now the league is full of tremendous athletes and, more importantly, players are smarter.

Freaks of nature still exist, though. For instance, on this day in 1993 a sophomore Shaquille O'Neal, then of the Orlando Magic, scored 24 points, grabbed 28 rebounds and blocked 15 shots (tying Manute Bol for the second-highest total in NBA history) during the Magic's 87-85 victory over New Jersey.

That's obscene. But it's also 23 years ago.

So what talents are in the NBA today that can make the center spot prevalent again in the face of three-point tirades?

Karl-Anthony Towns

Charlotte Hornets v Minnesota Timberwolves

The Minnesota Timberwolves forward had the best rookie for a big man last term since Tim Duncan. If that isn't a gauge of how good someone is going to be, then what is?

The former Kentucky standout was the number one overall pick in 2015 and he truly lived up to the hype. at just 21-years-old, he is 7'0", extremely mobile and has all the flair and skill anyone could hope for.

There isn't much he cannot do. He was averaging 2.3 blocks a night in college and so far that has translated to 1.7 a game in the NBA. He can get it done both ends of the floor and, like Shaq, he should be the go-to man on offence.

Joel Embiid

Oklahoma City Thunder v Philadelphia 76ers

This might be a premature pick, especially considering we're going to leave out the ultra-talented DeMarcus Cousins, but hear us out.

The Process is technically in his rookie season after missing the first two years of his pro career through complications with a foot injury. He was originally drafted third overall in 2014, but he would have almost certainly have gone number one if he was healthy.

Now that he is finally suiting up for the Philadelphia 76ers, he's tearing it up. He was never much of a point scorer in college with Kansas (who coincidentally ended up producing the number one overall pick that year anyway, with Embiid's teammate Andrew Wiggins) with just an average of 11.2, but so far for the Sixers he has 18 points a night with 7.6 rebounds and 2.2 blocks.

The 22-year-old registered a career-high of 26 points against the Suns last time out and the fact that he is 7'0" and can hit a three-point shot make him a valuable, floor-spacing commodity.

Andre Drummond

Detroit Pistons v Los Angeles Clippers

The 23-year-old Detroit Pistons center was a raw glass cleaner when he first entered the NBA, and while he is still a truly dominating presence in the paint in any kind of way, his game has evolved during his four years in the league.

His scoring has more than doubled since his rookie campaign and last season he boasted an average of 16.2 points a night. He is averaging 13 rebounds a game over the course of his career on top of 1.2 steals and 1.6 blocks.

Drummond was the rebounding leader last season and his defensive prowess on top of his ridiculous athleticism make him a formidable obstacle, but with his offence continuously climbing, he might go on to become the most polished center in the league.

Topics:
Shaquille O'Neal
NBA
LA Lakers
Pacific Division
Western Conference
Kobe Bryant
Joel Embiid
Philadelphia Sixers
Atlantic Division
Eastern Conference

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