Superman vs. Joker: Who was more dominant in NBA title runs, Shaq or Jokic?

A split image of Nikola Jokic, left, and Shaquille O'Neal
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, left, shoots Monday during Game 5 of the NBA Finals. At right, then-Lakers center Shaquille O’Neal celebrates a dunk against the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 1 of the Finals on June 6, 2001.
(Jack Dempsey; Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
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Nikola Jokic just completed a dominant run through the postseason to help the Denver Nuggets win their first NBA championship. He was rewarded for his efforts by being named the Finals MVP.

The last center to earn that honor? Shaquille O’Neal with the Lakers in 2002.

Before that? O’Neal with the Lakers in 2001.


Before that? Shaq with the Lakers in 2000.

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Naturally, with social media being social media, there have been a lot of comparisons between the two big men from two different eras. We’re happy to help settle the debate.

First the basics. At 7-foot-1 and 325 pounds (according to Basketball Reference), O’Neal was both an immovable object and an unstoppable force. One of Shaq’s many nicknames is Superman — and his Kryptonite during his playing days was the free-throw line.

Jokic (6-11, 284 pounds) isn’t as big and brutal as O’Neal was, but he’s more dynamic. He can shoot from pretty much anywhere (yes, that includes the free-throw line). Nicknamed after another comic book icon, the Joker has been knocked for his lack of athleticism.

Here’s a look at their numbers during their championship runs (O’Neal won a fourth ring in a more limited role with the Miami Heat in 2006).

And here are their numbers during the NBA Finals series in which they were named MVP:

Still having trouble deciding which is the most dominant big man? We thought that might be the case, so we asked two of The Times’ NBA writers for their input.

Here’s what Lakers beat writer Dan Woike had to say:


“Apples and oranges for me. Shaq dominated in a way physically that’s been unmatched since. Jokic’s all-around effectiveness in offense is unlike anything I’ve seen. I think I’d lean Shaq because brute force usually has won out over history, but Jokic, to me, was more fun to watch.”

And from Clippers beat writer Andrew Greif:

“I think what’s most interesting about Nikola Jokic is that he’s leading those who watch, and work within, the NBA to reevaluate what ‘dominant’ looks like. There’s the Shaq version that can physically push Chris Dudley under the basket and dunk over him with sheer strength. There’s also Jokic, a version of the big man archetype, who even those with years of NBA experience will tell you they have never seen before, because he combines savvy with the shot-making of someone playing a backyard game of H-O-R-S-E.

“He just became the first NBA player to lead all postseason players in three categories — total points, rebounds and assists. Total his averages and they come out to 52.9 combined points, assists and rebounds a night, and ESPN’s research department found that’s the second-highest total of any player in history who has played a minimum of 15 games in a single postseason. I don’t think you can say one or the other is more dominant. It’s like they’re playing two completely different games.”

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OK, so there you go — lots of helpful information and some visual aids you can use while debating Shaq vs. Joker. Now go out there and make us proud.

(You didn’t think we actually were going to settle the debate for you, did you?)