Wilt was before my time and watching espn classic is good but not enough for me to make a definitve statement.
So out of the one's I've seen I was going to say the same thing, Hakeem over Shaq. The Dream was the best all around center I've seen. I don't care about stats, they don't always tell the story. Hakeem could do it all.
They played against each other and I believe it is much easier, and fair, to compare players in the same era.
Oy, this question comes up every year on this board. You can either compare their relative impacts on the game, within their respective eras, in which case (with all due respect to O'Neal) Wilt unquestionably wins hands down. No one has ever come close to being as dominant offensively as he was at his peak, and few have been in his class as rebounders (Russell, maybe Moses, maybe Abdul-Jabbar, and others like Jerry Lucas and Dennis Rodman have had very impressive peaks as rebounders...).
Or, you can speculate about who is better/more dominant in absolute terms. Would Wilt have been as good as Shaq if he'd entered the league in the early '90s? Would Shaq have dominated like Wilt did in the early '60s? They both classify as stupendous physical specimens, larger and stronger than any of their peers but also exceptional athletes. But they play(ed) different games. O'Neal employs his physical advantages as a bruiser, taking much more advantage of his unstoppableness and unmovableness than Wilt really did. Wilt's signature move was a fadeaway jumper, rather than a baseline spin-and-dunk.
I'm sure Shaq would have carved up the league in the '60s, although I think there's a real question as to whether he would have been allowed to use his bulk and strength the way he does now. I've gotten the sense that Wilt really felt discriminated against by officials and opposing teams, who resented his size and strength. He sometimes felt manipulated into playing more of a finesse game, and sometimes just preferred it as a challenge in order to show he was a true athlete. Who knows how Shaq would have responded in those circumstances? Would he have felt the need to develop more of a versatile offensive game? What restrictions (official or unofficial) would have been placed on his style of play?
As for Wilt materializing in the modern era, I seriously doubt he'd have still averaged 50 ppg and a bazillion rebounds per game. But I still think he'd have emerged quickly as the most dominant big man ever, maybe averaging 27-28 ppg and 14-16 rpg over his career. And he probably would have bulked up more than he did in the '60s, becoming even more of an imposing physical specimen, as Shaq has done.
The bottom line with both Wilt and Shaq is that they both have/had amazing physical gifts, are/were both eccentric, egotistical and extremely competitive, and expanded their games significantly over time. I think comparing them straight up in absolute terms basically comes out as a wash, with one important difference...
Wilt took great pride in his rebounding, and generally focused on that as much as he did on scoring. It was an intense matter of competition for him, but I've long felt that O'Neal should be a much more dominant rebounder than he is--because he could be. If memory serves, his best rebounding year statistically was his rookie season. What's up with that? Not that he doesn't take the role seriously and not that he hasn't been one of the better rebounders of his era, but he should have a few 15 rpg seasons on his resume. If Ben Wallace can do it, I think O'Neal could have as well.
Maybe I'm missing some important subtleties in the way O'Neal plays the game, or misjudging what his priorities should be on the court. But I think this aspect of his game, if no other, is what keeps him some distance behind Wilt in any head-to-head comparison.
And I, too, love Olajuwon best of all, but I wouldn't call him the Best Ever...and that's for another thread, anyway.