NBA Hall of Famer and Los Angeles Lakers legend Shaquille O’Neal was one of the dominant players that league has ever seen take the court.
He was an absolute force of nature, but he possessed one huge weak spot in his game at the free-throw line where he shot 52.7 percent for his 19-year career.
During a recent interview with Nina Mandell of For The Win on USA TODAY Sports, he stated that he believes his poor shooting at the charity stripe was caused by one person.
“The theory is, it was the man way upstairs’ way of keeping me humble,” he said. “Seriously. Because the way I played, the way I made everyone else around me better, all of the publicity I was doing — imagine if I was doing that and had shot 90% from the free throw line. I would have been arrogant. I’d probably be so arrogant. So it was just his way of saying ‘hey, buddy, you’re just like everybody else.’”
Although it sounds a bit ridiculous for O’Neal to go to that extent, there are some nuggets of truth in his explanation. He was quite a confident player in his ability and had he knocked down his free throws at a more efficient rate he may have seen his scoring numbers skyrocket more towards the realm of what fellow Lakers legend Wilt Chamberlain averaged during his heyday.
That said, his struggles in this part of his game may have helped him keep a level head throughout his career. O’Neal never shot greater than 62.2 percent from the free-throw line, but that didn’t derail him from putting together an illustrious NBA career with his best years being with the Orlando Magic, Lakers, and Miami Heat.
He is widely regarded as one of the best players to play the game that was nearly unstoppable at times during his prime. If anything, this provides an interesting perspective from O’Neal about why he struggled at the free throw line.