Shaquille O’Neal is one of the greatest personalities that has ever graced the NBA universe. He is also one of the most dominant players the league has ever seen.
Shaq was a phenomenal athlete, especially for someone who was over 7 feet tall and weighed more than 300 pounds. Some may think he just overpowered opponents, but that is an oversimplification. He knew his strengths and played to them, yes, but he was also nimble around the basket, with excellent footwork.
O’Neal was super productive on and off the court, a trailblazer in terms of taking on entertainment projects and being an all-around superstar. From rapping to movies and commercials, Shaq really was (and still is) a brand unto himself.
Shaquille O’Neal LSU Days
Shaq played three season at LSU for coach Dale Brown, which might seem like a lot in the current era of one and done college players. His freshman campaign was nothing special, but his last two were incredible. He won the Player of the Year award as a sophomore and was a consensus All-American his last two seasons.
Shaq also collected two SEC Player of the Year trophies and made two all defensive teams. While O’Neal was certainly a force, the team did not have a lot of success while he was there. They never made it past the second round of the NCAA Tournament, though they were ranked as high as second when he was a freshman. That year, the Tigers also had NBA bound guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf and center Stanley Roberts. Robert and Shaq sometimes shared the court, which was a bit of a weird positional fit.
Success in the Pros
Like so many elite big men, it did not take Shaq long to make an impact in the NBA. He was the first overall draft pick of the 1992 NBA Draft and proceeded to win the Rookie of the Year. Two seasons later, the duo of Shaq and versatile guard Penny Hardaway led Orlando to the NBA Finals, where they lost to Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets. Shaq played four dominant season for Orlando before leaving as a free agent.
The Lakers signed him in 1996, the same year they traded for Kobe Bryant on draft night. A few years after that, with Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson playing tactician and ego manager, the Lakers won their first of a string of three straight NBA championships. Both Bryant and O’Neal are all time legends, but there was always a bit of a tug of war as to who was more the team’s leader and dominant personality.
Kobe went on to win titles with the Lakers without Shaq, but with all due respect, Shaq was the straw that stirred the drink on those early 2000’s teams. He was just that dominant, especially in the playoffs.
Eventually in-fighting between Kobe and Shaq was too much for the Lakers to deal with, and O’Neal was traded to Miami, where he won his fourth title playing with a young Dwayne Wade.
The last few seasons of his career he played with Phoenix, Boston and Cleveland with no significant results, individually or team wise.
Hall of Famer
Shaquille O’Neal has enjoyed huge amounts of individual and team success. He won Rookie of the Year, and was a 15 time All-Star and 14 time All-NBA selection. Shaq won four NBA titles with two teams, and in three of those titles, he was named Finals MVP.
He only captured one regular season MVP, but he was the MVP of the All-Star game three times, won a couple of scoring titles, and made a a few all defensive teams. For all these achievements and more he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016, along with guard Allen Iverson and center Yao Ming.
Shaq continues to stay involved in the game, mostly as an analyst on TNT’s popular Inside the NBA pregame and halftime show.