O'Neal Before The King

May 09, 1999

Perhaps it was the shortened season. Or the Tae-Bo training. Or
maybe it was all the time he spent holding his breath waiting to
see if Dennis Rodman was going to show up for practice. Whatever
the reason, Shaquille O'Neal's fickle abs didn't cost him any
court time this year, and as a result, he dominates the SI
Player Ratings* for the '99 NBA season through Sunday. After a
strong start by Sacramento's Chris Webber, O'Neal (right) took
over the top spot in mid-March, and had an almost unassailable
lead at week's end, with just two games left on the Lakers'
schedule.

The top-rated forward, San Antonio's Tim Duncan, avoided a
sophomore slump, and in the third slot is Phoenix's Jason Kidd,
the top point guard. Rounding out our All-Pro By The Numbers
team are last season's top-rated player, Karl Malone, at the
other forward spot and Allen Iverson (No. 13 overall) of the
Sixers at shooting guard. Orlando guard Darrell Armstrong made
the biggest leap, going from 198th last season to 34th at week's
end, and Sacramento center Vlade Divac went from 94th to 20th.
(Who says he can't jump?) A couple of other players on the verge
of stardom are Denver's Danny Fortson (from 124th to 41st),
Maurice Taylor of the Clippers (148th to 60th) and Toronto's
Tracy McGrady (184th to 79th). Taking big dives were Boston's
Antoine Walker (seventh to 43rd) and a pair of Pistons, Jerry
Stackhouse (75th to 140th) and Bison Dele (92nd this year), who
was better when he was Brian Williams (32nd last year).

Finally, it's worth noting that Charles Barkley missed a Sir
Charles-sized chunk of the season (eight games) and was still
rated among the league's top 20 players. All hail the pride of
Chucky!

--David Sabino

RANK PLAYER, TEAM SI RATING

1. Shaquille O'Neal, Lakers 61.3
2. Tim Duncan, Spurs 56.9
3. Jason Kidd, Suns 55.3
4. Karl Malone, Jazz 55.1
5. Antonio McDyess, Nuggets 53.6
6. Kevin Garnett, Timberwolves 52.8
7. Gary Payton, SuperSonics 52.6
8. Alonzo Mourning, Heat 51.7
9. Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Grizzlies 50.8
10. Grant Hill, Pistons 50.3
11. Hakeem Olajuwon, Rockets 49.6
12. Chris Webber, Kings 49.3
13. Allen Iverson, 76ers 48.2
14. Stephon Marbury, T-wolves/Nets 45.1
15. David Robinson, Spurs 45.0
16. Shawn Kemp, Cavaliers 43.8
17. Kobe Bryant, Lakers 43.8
18. Michael Finley, Mavericks 43.6
19. Charles Barkley, Rockets 43.1
20. Vlade Divac, Kings 42.7
21. Vince Carter, Raptors 42.2
22. Dikembe Mutombo, Hawks 42.1
23. Keith Van Horn, Nets 40.9
24. Detlef Schrempf, SuperSonics 40.3
25. Scottie Pippen, Rockets 40.1
26. Rod Strickland, Wizards 39.9
27. Anfernee Hardaway, Magic 39.8
28. Glenn Robinson, Bucks 39.0
29. Tom Gugliotta, Suns 38.8
30. Toni Kukoc, Bulls 38.5

* The SI Player Rating Formula: [2 X (Field Goals Made + 3-Pts.
Made + Assists + Blocks + OR) + (1.5 X (DR + Steals) + Total
Points + FTM - (2 X TOs) - (Missed FTs + Missed FGs + Missed
3-Pts.)] [divided by] Games Team Has Played

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)