Shaquille O’Neal made a name for himself as one of the most dominant players to ever pick up a basketball.
The four-time NBA champion and Hall of Fame center was known for his demoralizing dunks that often left his opponents in shame. But why did he dunk the ball with so much force?
Turns out, it’s related to two things: his father’s tough love and former Syracuse basketball star Rony Seikaly.
During a recent interview on “All the Smoke,” a weekly podcast series hosted by former NBA players Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson, O’Neal said he never wanted to dunk when he was in high school. Instead, he desired to play with finesse like Magic Johnson.
At the 18:15 mark of the interview, O’Neal recalled a game from high school when he attempted to finger roll a layup but missed, causing his father, Phillip Harrison (a former U.S. Army drill sergeant), to walk on the court and call timeout. O’Neal said he was taken outside, where Harrison smacked him and told him to “be Shaquille O’Neal” instead of mimicking Johnson.
“That’s when I started dunking,” O’Neal said. “And the reason why I’ve always dunked so fierce is because I was mad at him and I wanted to tear the rim down. But it was just regular dunks. So then I would go home and he’s making me watch college games, and I’m watching Syracuse play. Sherman Douglas throws it to Rony Seikaly and he dunks it but he’s getting his legs up.
“I said OK. So the next game, my father was there and I’m dunking and getting my legs up. What I learned from that is people started (hunching over). I said ‘Ahh, OK. (laughs). I got something there.’ So that’s when I started dunking, dunking, dunking and dominating.”
Seikaly played center at Syracuse for four years, including on the 1987 men’s Final Four team during his junior season. He averaged 16.3 points and 9.6 rebounds as a senior. Seikaly was drafted with the No. 9 pick by the Miami Heat in 1988 and went on to have an 11-year career in the NBA.
O’Neal’s famous Dunkman logo can be found on his popular Reebok shoes.
Now it’s apparent that the credit goes to Seikaly.