Once upon a time, Shaquille O’Neal and Yao Ming were the biggest stars in the NBA. Literally, with Yao taking home the tall guy crown and O’Neal in the middle of his run of 18 consecutive most Shaq-iest honors. Way back in 2002, a Rockets-Lakers matchup was such a big deal (haha, pun) that the two teams played a Christmas Day game, despite the fact that Houston would finish out of the playoffs that season. Ever since Yao entered the league, these two were joined at the hip, several feet above ground.

Given that, it’s fitting that the two giants retired in the same summer. To mark the occasion, artist Chris Edser made a masterpiece entitled “The End of the Centerzoic Epoch,” a poignant tribute depicting the two as recently extinct dinosaurs. Here’s his explanation of the piece:

With the gradual extinction of colossal centers such as the Yao the tallest and Shaq the largest; smaller, quicker, scurrying creatures are taking over the NBA. A point guard even won MVP.

Yep. It’s a new world now. The old giants are gone, and the new realm of superstars succeed because of their athleticism, rather than their size. Even Dwight Howard, the NBA’s reigning best center alive, is more of a quick guy than a huge guy. We’re definitely in a post-Centerzoic era of basketball.

The print is available from Zazzle for $22.60 or $31.70, depending on what size you order. If you ask me, it’d only be fair to buy the larger one. Consider it your way of keeping their memory alive.

(via Ron Artist)