Over on NBA TV, all week, the channel has been celebrating Shaquille O’Neal in what they’ve dubbed Shaq Week. The programming has included a ton of fantastic programming, including games from his time with the Magic and Heat, his off-court exploits, and, of course, highlights from his 8 years with the Lakers.
Understandably, it’s the latter which has interested us most. I am too young to have seen Wilt Chamberlain play live, but I would argue prime Shaq was the closest approximation you’ll find to the man they called the Big Dipper. Shaq — a man of many nicknames himself — was simply a juggernaut on the court, man handling opponents with his strength while simultaneously baffling them with his agility and quickness.
Recalling Shaq’s physical gifts, however, doesn’t do him justice as a player. While he was bigger and, often, athletically superior to his peers, his skill level was also off the charts. Over the course of his career, he consistently added primary and counter moves to his arsenal to keep opponents on their heels. He was also a much better passer than given credit for, mastering the cuts and movements of the Triangle to the point where he always knew where his teammates would be with an ability to deliver them passes when the defense tried to send extra attention his way.
All of this is to say Shaq wasn’t just a behemoth whose success came from him winning the genetic lottery. Shaq was skilled, smart, and able to combine all his strengths to become a dominant player who terrorized the league for most of his hall of fame career.
So, I hope you get the chance to get over to NBA TV and see some classic Shaq. On and off the court there’s not likely to be another player like him for some time (if ever). Also take the time to enjoy the video below. In one of my favorite games from Shaq, he demolished the Kings in Game 1 of the 2001 Western Conference Semi-Finals, scoring 44 points while grabbing 21 rebounds and blocking 7 shots. In the words of the big man, he turned those dudes into BBQ Chicken.
Baylor Fan says
The Beck interview goes very will with this. Watching the game against the Kings, I was impressed by the coaching wisdom on the sidelines. As usual, Jackson had the architect of the triangle, Tex Winter. Adelman had Pete Carril architect of the Princeton offense helping him. As Beck pointed out, the Kings were loaded players who liked to pass. The Kings were also loaded with big men including Vlade and Scott Pollard who were not afraid to use their fouls on Shaq. Both teams had the ideal players to run their offense with the Kings having a much deeper bench. What a great series.
You need to compare Shaq to Wilt when he was with the Warriors. He was by far the strongest player in the NBA and very athletic. He would fill the wing on breaks. They were the two biggest, most athletic, and most skilled big men to ever play.
the most dominant big man in terms of sheer size and strength combined with agility and quickness never seen before for his size. dominated the 3PEAT LAKERS finals he played. His post moves were underrated because his strength and size tend to overshadow his post skills. A monster in the paint.
J C says
I’ve often wondered how Shaq would fare against Wilt. Wilt’s athleticism was second to none and even in today’s NBA, Wilt would be a number 1 pick straight out of high school.
But it’s hard to imagine anyone stopping Shaq down low in his prime. Wilt’s strength was legendary, but Shaq may have been even stronger.
Yet Wilt could probably outjump Shaq…
What a battle we’ll never get the chance to see!
JC, Shaq was great, but he wouldn’t have wanted any of that Wilt.
The thing about Shaq is how well-coordinated he was for a guy with that kind of body. I recall how excited I was when the Lakers got him.
Nice write-up D., & what a gas it is watching those highlights from `01 –
This may be a fun anecdote for some of you:
I had the great fortune of meeting Shaq personally down here in Buenos Aires in `97, though it may have been `98 – he was down here promoting his sneakers or some such thing. Anyhow, I was working at a 5-star hotel at that time & word was Shaq was coming to town &, lo and behold, he´d be staying there. You can imagine I was beside myself: Jerry West had done the very heavy lifting to get Diesel to land in Inglewood & of course the then near future was as bright as it could get with our next great center at the helm!
As it happens, I became frinedly with one Jerome, who frequented the lobby bar every evening for a moment to himself. Turns out, some of you may know where this is heading, Jerome is Shaq´s bodyguard – didn´t take yours truly anything less than a nanosecond to blurt out happily that my blood was purple in color, that Magic had showed me the light way back when, and that he should kindly relay my warmest greetings to our very own Mr. O´Neal. Being a friendly and considerate fellow, Jerome proceeded to ask me if I wanted to meet the futre Hall of Famer, that it ´d be no problem; `Sheeeet yeah brother!! Dang!´ (I have, quite purposely, quoted myself erroneously for the sake of protecting the fragile minds of any under-age reader, commenter of this here blog ;-P )
It might have been that same afternoon, or maybe the next, when the elevators directly opposite the fancy, marbled lobby bar opened and out came our hero escorted by Jerome. Smiling, towering over everyone of course, enjoying the fact that absolutely every single person who happened to be anywhere nearby couldn´t help but ogle in wonder, & man it was great for me to witness how he just simply dug it! Heck, even the hotel employees, who were under strict policy never to disturb the celebrity guests, be they of the show business type, from the sports world, or even the dipomatic world for that matter, were running up to him just to say hello or shake his hand. Men, women, it didn´t matter.
Shaq and Jerome crossed the hallway into the bar area & came staright toward me. Dressed in my regulation, black penguin outfit which went with the territory of my reason for being there in the first place, I came out from behind the bar & as Jerome shook my hand with a smile on his face, he turned to The Big Aristotle and proceeded to introduce this Lakers fan. As he reached out and shook my hand, I saw it disappear into his. (Deja vú, I thought, it´s just like when I met my first true hero, Muhammad Ali, when I was 15 back in ol´ LA!) Greeting were exchanged, I tried not to gush, but again, I was practically beside myself. I could give a giant hoot about the hotel rules at this point, and was happy to hear Shaq ask me if I could get my hands on some genuine Cuban cigars for him; `Dang straight man!´- So your humble servant went around and got the humidor provided by the luxury accomodatons, opened it and went on to explain the different kinds of `habanos´ available at that moment. With a certain childlike glee, he took out 5 or 6, maybe a few more, and politely asked if I could bill them to his room.
And here´s the kicker – quite insignificant to anyone else I know, but to me it was ALL important, because it was my very small way of showing my gratitude for the man who would end up raising three straight championship trophies over his head for himself and our great franchise, & in turn making every and any Lakers fan anywhere in the world truly happy, and dagnabit, I wasn´t gonna miss this opportunity: I told Shaq there was no way I would bill him for the cigars (you can imagine they were over a hundred bucks each at the time), that it was my pleasure to hand them over as a gift from a Lakers fan who felt lucky to have him on our team. His wide grin and twinkle in his eye were what i hadn´t expected in return. We said `adios´, Jerome and I shook hands and I thanked him once more.
Ah, what great fortune it is being a Los Angeles Lakers fan. 🙂
Great story Purple. And you gave him cigars instead of food, which is a good thing in this case : )
Shaq is truly one of the GOAT. The fact he has 1 MVP is a crime. In the old days they gave MVP’s to guys like Wilt, Russell, and Kareem. By the time Shaq came around the voters had gotten creative as if they were voting for an academy award or something. The worst case of this was Shaq not getting the award in 2001, which was he and the Lakers at their dominant peak.
I’m with mud. As good as Shaq was, he couldn’t hold a candle to Wilt in his prime. For those who wonder how Wilt would stop Shaq, I’d look no further than Hakeem. The question was more about how Shaq would stop Wilt.
Don’t mean to diss Shaq at all, just that Wilt was at another level.
Actually – when I look up at the wall – I see Shaq holding 3 candles
Shaq was obviously one of the best of all time but if I’m in a draft and its time to choose a Centre, I take Wilt every time.
Its too bad his womanising has detracted from how dominant he truly was.
Awesome story, PurpleBlood! Five or six hundred dollars was a considerable amount of money in 97-98.
Shaq had a perfect temperament to endure those fouls game in and game out. Just imagine how terrible it could have been for the league if he was surly and short-tempered.
So now he surmises that he and Kobe could have netted six titles. For all of his perceived immaturity, Kobe saw that potential at the age of 18. Oh well.
CHearn & Robert, thanks so much 🙂
` And you gave him cigars instead of food, which is a good thing in this case : ) ´
`So now he surmises that he and Kobe could have netted six titles. For all of his perceived immaturity, Kobe saw that potential at the age of 18. Oh well.´
wow, that nails it. well said 🙂