It’s easy for us to sit on the sidelines and nitpick whether a player was able to maximize every bit of his potential. This is certainly the case with Shaquille O’Neal and the tremendous legacy he continues to create during what has become a three-decade playing and broadcasting career. Those of us that have enjoyed the ride throughout his days at LSU, in Orlando, Los Angeles, Miami, as well as the myriad of other locations that ultimately resulted in him verbally sparring with fellow Hall of Famer Charles Barkley and the rest of TNT’s Inside the NBA cast have truly been blessed.
Beyond being one of the latest inductees into the Basketball Hall of Fame, O’Neal was a 15x All-Star, four-time NBA champion, three-time Finals MVP, scored 28,596 points and grabbed 13,099 rebounds, amongst a ton of other impressive feats. He also managed to find time to act in several feature films, record a platinum record and establish himself as a wildly successful advertising spokesman along the way. An impressive feat within itself, as big men (kids and fans often relate to guards) aren’t normally afforded such opportunities.
To call him a once-in-a-lifetime entertainer may sound somewhat hyperbolic, but is the absolute truth when it comes to O’Neal. He was as gregarious and approachable as a bona fide superstar as perhaps we’ve ever seen. Oh, and he also happened to have a devastating combination of size and brute strength to go along with an unnatural amount of body control, athleticism and agility for a man with his dimensions.
Last night, O’Neal was deservedly awarded a statue by the Los Angeles Lakers that now hangs outside of Staples Center, and even if only for a brief moment, it allowed many of us to remember some of the incredible events and highlights from throughout his career. We decided to get reactions from some of our friends that cover the league and asked them for a word, sentence or paragraph (their choice) on O’Neal’s impact.
Lang Greene, Basketball Insiders: Certified goodie monster. If you ever want to clearly show what total domination looks like, visit YouTube and search for highlights of Shaq’s 1999-00 season. WhewLawd.
Roland Lazenby, NBA Author/Historian: Shaq, to me, was always the NBA’s most joyful, human superstar, except when his face clouded over in anger. Fortunately, his dark moods never lasted long. On the floor, he did things his way and was the man.
Jamieson Welsh, Fox Sports Radio: The only word I can think of is un****** (unstoppable). At his peak, there was nothing you could do with Shaq. Even with him missing half his free throws he still dominated the game at levels we’ve never seen before.
Adrian Garcia Marquez, play-by-play (en Español) for the Los Angeles Lakers: La fuerza más dominante que he visto en cualquier cancha, punto. THE most dominant force I have ever seen on any field or court, doesn’t matter the sport, period. You get all that plus Hollywood personality and ShaqFu? He had me at hello. What a treat it was to watch him destroy teams. Un verdadero privilegió.
Josh Eberley, HOOPmag/NBA.com: It’s hard to explain just how much fun prime Shaquille O’Neal was. He was the most exciting and by far the best player in the game when my NBA fandom began. His singular MVP doesn’t do him justice, he was the MVP from 99-04. He was a cheat code, fundamentally sound down on the block with more power and size than any comparable. O’Neal has wrongly been accused of lacking skill, he didn’t. He could run the floor, he had a bevy of post moves, and as he gained weight over the course of his career people miscast him.
Peak O’Neal ripping down nets, dunking, shoving, spinning off other bigs. It was next level. O’Neal had his flaws but he was magnificent. No one brought the same level of physicality to the game. Don’t let his TNT antics turn your stomach on what was a top 10 all-time career.
James Holas, BBallBREAKDOWN: “Dominant.” Apart from the BS with Kobe, the stubbornness, the overweight, late career Shaq, there was the human wrecking ball Shaq. He was like The Juggernaut, there was no real way to stop him.
Jordan Buscarini, host of ‘Drive Time Sports’: “Incredible.” I pick one of the most overused words in sports to define Shaquille O’Neal, because he fits the actual definition of the word. It’s highly unlikely we ever see a 7-foot-1, 325 pound individual with the quickness and court vision he possessed ever again. The 1999-2000 season will forever be one of the most “incredible” individual campaigns in league history.
Ryan Ward, LakersNation.com: Unstoppable. In his prime with the Lakers, Shaq could not be stopped in the paint with quickness and finesse that may never be seen again from a center of his size in the NBA. A true freak of nature, and more the deserving of being immortalized in bronze outside the Staples Center among other Lakers greats.
Bob Garcia, Lakers beat writer: Dominant. Throughout his eight-year tenure with the Los Angeles Lakers, O’Neal was the league’s top big man that had no equal during that stretch. Simply put, he was a one of kind generation talent and one of the greatest players to play in the NBA.
Anthony Irwin, Silver Screen & Roll: Shaq will probably remain the NBA’s greatest example of the combination of dominating athleticism and skill he probably doesn’t get enough credit for.
Harrison Feigan, Locked On Lakers co-host: Shaq was the most dominant player I’ve ever watched. No one person I’ve ever watched singularly overpowered their opponents as seemingly effortlessly as Shaq did, leaving them to simply shake their heads at their teammates as if to silently ask “what do you want me to do?”
His statue outside Staples Center is a well-deserved honor, and I think we all can dig it.
EJ Christian, Earnestly Speaking: While there is some frustration personally on Shaq’s career in the fact that in my opinion he’s supposed to be the greatest center to ever play the game, as a lifelong Miami HEAT fan I will always be appreciative of his short stint here in South Florida. He came, he promised, he delivered the team’s first championship in 2006. Shaq is definitely an all-time great and a top 15 – – possibly top 10 player to ever play in the Association. Just wish his career was much more definitive than that.
Eric Saar, SolarInsights.net: Shaq was a dominant center whose career spanned the end of the era of the real, true “back-to-the-basket” big man. His numbers are undeniably spectacular as was his “larger than life” personality that, paired with his talent, work ethic and drive molded him into one of the best centers of the modern era and made him such a joy to watch.
Benyam Kidane, BelieveTheHypeNBA.com: For starters, he is the sole reason my seven-year-old self was draped in Orlando Magic gear. Watching a human wrecking ball bully opposing centers on both ends was all of the fun, but the fact that he did it while he carried that huge grin on his face made his game that much more enjoyable.
Shaq made basketball fun, and he did it while winning.
P.S. Also, let’s not sleep on his acting career. Steel is underrated.
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