What happens when you combine power, will and skill with a seven-foot basketball player? You get Shaquille O’Neal, an all time great.
From his early days in Orlando to his prime in Los Angeles and Miami, Shaquille O’Neal has been dominant. To seal his basketball resume, O’Neal is now enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame among basketball royalty.
In the 1992 NBA Draft, the Orlando Magic selected O’Neal from LSU with the No. 1 overall pick. From that moment forward, he changed the game forever. O’Neal was a different type of big man. He was a very versatile center who had a consistent post game, could run the floor and had athleticism that caused his competitors trouble on a nightly basis.
O’Neal earned Rookie of the Year honors and in 1995 the Magic earned a trip to the NBA Finals. They met defeat at the hands of the Houston Rockets.
Once Shaquille O’Neal became eligible for free agency (1996), he took his talents to the Sunshine State, the home of the Los Angeles Lakers.
He selected four current Hall of Famers to present him. A list that includes Alonzo Mourning, Bill Russell, Isiah Thomas and Julius Irving; players that have transcended the game as well.
O’Neal mentioned several people who played a factor in his success. Among those, was a playful joke on Kobe Bryant, his former teammate and a future first ballot Hall of Famer himself.
“Last but not least, the great Kobe Bryant,” O’Neal said. “A guy that would push me. Kobe Bryant, a guy who would push me and help me win three titles, but who also helped me get pushed off the team and traded to Miami.”
I don’t know if there was or ever will be a duo as dynamic as Bryant and O’Neal. They played together for eight seasons and was able to accomplish a rare “three-peat” by winning back-to-back-to-back championships from 2000-02.
The second coming of that duo actually came close in 2005 when O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat to join forces with a young Dwyane Wade. With Wade, he was able to win one more championship to add to his resume in 2006.
O’Neal would call Phoenix, Cleveland and Boston his home for the remainder of his career before retiring in 2011. Persistent injuries limited his production for those franchises. He averaged 23.7 points, 10.9 rebounds, and shot 58.7 percent from the field throughout his 19 season career.
Even after basketball, O’Neal stayed close to the game by bringing his electric personality to the TNT crew to become an analyst along with Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson.
In his Hall of Fame speech, O’Neal credits his parents Lucille O’Neal and Phil Harrison for giving him the vision and inspiration to fulfill his dream to become a dominant big man in the NBA.
“If I know my father, he’s up there arguing with Wilt [Chaimberlain] that his son is the best big man in the game,” said O’Neal.” “One day when some father quizzes his sons on the greats of the game, I hope Shaquille O’Neal will be the answer.”
O’Neal has a resume that includes four championships, three Finals MVPs, a regular season MVP, 15 All-Star appearances, two-time scoring champ and Rookie of the Year accolades to say the least. If that doesn’t scream top five centers in the history of this game, I don’t know what does.
Lets not forget a platinum album and that film called Kazaam if you want to make it even more interesting. Whether you know Shaquille O’Neal for shattering backboards, his hilarious personality, acting, rap career or his championships, he is solidified as one of the best centers to ever pick up a basketball.