Hall of Fame center and former Los Angeles Lakers great Shaquille O’Neal disputes Anthony Davis being labeled a “big man.”
O’Neal said the media lumps forwards—especially power forwards—into the same category as centers, which is a mistake:
“Well, I hate when you all put power forwards and big men in the same category,” O’Neal said, via ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk. “You should talk to Tim Duncan. Because power forwards and big men are two different categories. Period.”
But the notion of what a “big man” is has changed rapidly since O’Neal’s prime.
Shaq was a more traditional, back-to-basket kind of center on the low block, dominating over the years with the Orlando Magic, Lakers, and Miami Heat. Duncan also excelled in the post, though he had a strong midrange game as well.
However, low-post bigs are a rarity in today’s game. There is a premium on centers who can stretch the floor and play from the perimeter. It explains why guys like Nikola Jokic and Karl-Anthony Towns continue to excel with their diverse skill sets.
Still, Shaq has a point in that the power forward can also encompass guys like P.J. Tucker, who is a spot-up shooter and hardly what most would think of as a “big.”
Regardless, O’Neal encouraged Davis to stay hungry:
“But I wish him well,” Shaq said of Davis, via Youngmisuk. “My thing is just stay hungry. Why win one when you can win two, three or four.”
Davis have every reason to stay hungry after making a five-year commitment to the Lakers this offseason.
LeBron James still has as much star power as anyone in professional sports, but it might not be a stretch to say Davis could soon be the face of the franchise and perhaps the entire NBA.