With all the Embiid vs Shaq talk that has been around social media lately, it’s time we share our thoughts on the matter. For those who lack context, recently, some have suggested the Cameroonian big man claimed is more dominant than the Big Diesel, which obviously fueled a big debate online.
Embiid is fresh off posting a career-high and Philadelphia 76ers’ record 70 points on Victor Wembanyama and the San Antonio Spurs. He’s also riding one of the longest streaks of scoring 30+ points in NBA history, although he did miss several games with injuries.
There’s absolutely no doubt that Embiid is going to go down as one of the greatest centers in NBA history. He should be right there to win MVP again this season, and he might also win the scoring title again. We could get the Embiid comparisons with Shaq then, as they’re the last two big men to win the award. But if we talk about dominance, who comes out on top?
Shaq or Embiid: Player comparison
Stats only tell one part of the picture, but stats do favor the Sixers’ big man. Thus far, he averages 27.9 points per game, compared to Shaq’s 23.7. He’s also slightly better in rebounds per game (11.2 to 10.9), assists per game (3.6 to 2.5), and steals per game (0.9 to 0.6). Shaq clears him in blocks per game at 2.3, compared to Embiid’s 1.7.
Embiid also has a higher career-high (70 to Shaq’s 61), and has averaged more points in a single season (36.1) than Shaq ever did (29.7). Then again, does that mean he’s more dominant than Shaq? The answer is no, not even remotely close.
We could make a point for Embiid being a more complete and better scorer, and that would make perfect sense. We all know Shaq’s free-throw shooting was his Achilles heel, and he wasn’t a three-point shooter by any means, although that also had to do with the zeitgeist.
Then again, we cannot ignore the fact that rules have changed a lot since Shaq’s playing days. Defense is a lost art nowadays, and foul-baiting is rewarded. Embiid is a master at that, taking over 12 free-throws per game this season.
Don’t get me wrong, bending the rules in your favor is a skill, and he does deserve a lot of credit for being an 88% free-throw shooter. But the difference is that he’s getting the calls because he tries to get them, whereas Shaq was hacked viciously over and over because it was the only way to stop him. Teams literally had to come up with a strategy to keep Shaq from scoring. If that’s not dominance, then I don’t know what it is.
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Also, Shaq’s averages took a big dip later in his career because he played for at least two years more than he should’ve, and he was a shell of himself during those days in Boston.
Back to our thing. If we take a look at their numbers in the playoffs, Embiid has often left a lot to be desired, either being hurt or way too passive, and struggling to make an impact. He even had the biggest drop-off in points per game from a reining MVP in the playoffs in NBA history.
Shaq, on the other hand, was at his best at the most crucial times, averaging almost 29 points and 14 boards per game in the NBA Finals and winning 3 Finals MVPs. Embiid’s scoring totals are almost 10 points lower in the plaoyffs.
Simply put, Shaq was the most dominant physical force this game has ever seen. He was putting up almost 30 points per game as a big man against tougher defenses and playing at a slower pace. Also, he was more graceful than people give him credit for, and he also had an elite footwork.
Shaq was more physically imposing on both ends of the floor, and the last player you wanted to come across in a big game. Perhaps Embiid might be a better offensive force and a more versatile big man because of the era he plays in.
Some might even say he’s a better player, and while I don’t agree, numbers could back it up.
That’s the definition of Shaquille O’Neal.