- CLUTCH Summary: Shaquille O'Neal, most known for his stint with the Los Angeles Lakers, is arguably the GOAT of big men.
- While he was already by then a dominant force, the 2001 Western Conference Semifinals enforced the idea that Shaq is a meant who shouldn't be trifled with.
- Shaq, in his prime, was an elite “rivalry” killer.
In today's NBA, the term “dominant” is thrown around without much of a second thought. Last season, Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo could be considered as the most dominant player in the game, and his first-ever MVP title is certainly testament to this fact. Houston Rockets cornerstone stud James Harden might also have a case, as he was pretty much an unstoppable offensive force throughout the season, averaging a mind-boggling 36.1 points per ballgame.
However, it is without question that the sport was much different some two decades ago. Back then, those of us who were lucky enough to witness this era were treated to some of the most truly dominant big men the sport has ever seen. In this respect, with his 7-foot-1, 325-pound frame, perhaps there was no one more dominant than the great Shaquille O'Neal. The 15-time All-Star embodies the very definition of dominance, and it could even be argued that he is the most dominant player of all-time.
Shaq had a pretty colorful career, playing for no less than six different teams (three in his final three years) throughout his legendary 19-year career. However, his most memorable stint was during his time with the Los Angeles Lakers, playing alongside another NBA great and future Hall of Famer in Kobe Bryant. Not only was it during his time with the Purpls & Gold when O'Neal would win three out of his four championships, but this was also the time when he had some of his most memorable and most dominant performances ever. Below, we've collated his Top 5 most dominant games in a Lakers uniform.
vs Boston Celtics (Mar 21, 2003)
The Lakers-Celtics age-old rivalry is perhaps one of the most recognizable rivalries in all of competitive sports. O'Neal definitely had his fair share of outstanding efforts against the Celtics, and one of the most memorable ones has got to be his 48-point, 20-rebound effort against Paul Pierce and company back in 2003. What's even more impressive is how Shaq went 19-of-24 from the field on this evening, which is good for a 79.2 percent (!) shooting clip.
Notably, Shaq would end up finishing his career with the Celtics, as he would retire following a one-year stint with Boston in the 2010-11 season.
vs Sacramento Kings (May 6, 2001 – Western Conference Semifinals, Game 1)
Talking about rivalries, the Sacramento Kings were always a thorn on the side of the Lakers in the early 2000's. However, as much as how great the Kings were (their starting five was comprised of Jason Williams, Doug Christie, Peja Stojakovic, Chris Webber, and Vlade Divac), they proved no match to GOAT type of dominance coming from Shaq.
One of O'Neal's most unforgettable performances against the Kings happened in Game 1 of the 2001 Western Conference Semifinals. Shaq would torch Sacramento for 44 points on 17-of-32 shots, 21 rebounds, and seven blocked shots.
The Lakers would go on to sweep the Kings in the series, en route to a almost unblemished championship run. Shaquille O'Neal and company would lose only one game (vs Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 1 of the Finals) throughout the playoffs on their way to the second title of their historical three-peat.
The big man GOAT vs Sacramento Kings (Apr 23, 2000 – Playoffs First Round, Game 1)
At No 3 we have another epic O'Neal performance against the Kings. This time around, this was during the very first game of the 2000 NBA Playoffs.
The Lakers were dominant throughout the regular season, securing the first seed with a 67-15 record. The big man GOAT made sure that he would use the first game of the playoffs to make a statement not only for the Kings, but for the rest of the NBA as well. The big man finished with 46 points (on 21-of-33 shooting), 17 boards, an assist, two steals, and five blocks to lead the Lakers to a victory.
This was perhaps the most memorable season in Shaq's career, as this was not only the year he would win MVP honors, but more importantly, this was the season where he would deliver the first NBA championship for the Lakers in over a decade.
vs Washington Wizards (Mar 23, 2001)
Taking a break from a couple of legendary playoff games from Shaquille O'Neal, we head back to a regular season contest for our second spot. In 2001, Shaq's utter dominance was on full display as he absolutely poured it on against the Wizards for 40 points (on 15 of 25 from the field), 17 rebounds, eight assists, three steals, and five blocks. What makes this line ever more impressive is the fact that he racked up these numbers in just 38 minutes of action. Oh, and for good measure, Shaq also went 10-of-13 from the line on the evening.
at Los Angeles Clippers (Mar 6, 2000)
Finally, at the very top of our list we have O'Neal's career-best performance, which is perhaps the most apt representation of how dominant he was in his prime. If some random stranger asked you why you think Shaq was one of the most dominant forces in the history of the sport and you only had to pick one game to prove it, then this would have to it.
In March of 2000, arguable big man GOAT recorded his career-high of 61 points against the L.A. Clippers. He did this on 24-of-35 shooting, and also grabbed 23 boards in the process. There's not much more to say about O'Neal's mind-boggling performance, so it would be best to just re-live this memorable occasion below.
Shaquille O'Neal will go down as one of the Top 10 players in the history of the NBA; and as mentioned, arguably the GOAT of his position. He was an absolute beast that was as unstoppable as any one player in the game could ever be. It was a pleasure having been a first-hand witness to his legendary career, and it is not likely that we're ever going to see anyone like him ever again.