Shaquille O’Neal, an entertaining personality and dominant basketball player, was a horrible free throw shooter. This fact is not in dispute. The NBA still struggles with whether it should ban a strategy called Hack-A-Shaq, in which a team trying to catch up repeatedly fouls the opponent’s worst free throw shooter. Shaq’s woes at the line weren’t new for a big man; Wilt Chamberlain himself, prototype for superman at center, struggled mightily from the stripe. (As do contemporary Superman-center-types like Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan.)
But the late great center Moses Malone and his outstanding career free throw shooting makes coaches think of another winning, rhyming strategy: Clone-A-Malone. The Shaq-Moses comparison is fun to do — and Shaq’s rep hardly takes a beating in the duel. Both played 19 seasons and Shaq won four rings to Moses’s one. Points, rebounds and the rest find the superstars in the same ballpark. But Moses was a career 77% free throw shooter to Shaq’s 53%. Shooting a Moses-like 77% Shaq would probably be in the top 3 or 4 of all-time scorers (he’s now #8). At the very least, he’d have passed Moses, who’s at #7. Whether he’d have won more rings we’ll never know.