Shaquille O’Neal: ‘I only played 30 percent of my real game’
It’s undisputed that Shaquille O’Neal is one of the most talented big men to ever play on the courts of the NBA.
After winning four championships, earning 15 All-Star designations, and one league MVP title, O’Neal will be inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame on Friday. But he recently admitted that there’s a great deal of his game that fans never got to see.
“I only played 30 percent of my real game,” O’Neal told Shams Charania of The Vertical. “I had a great career, but I didn’t get a chance to showcase what I can really do. That’s because the double- and triple-teams were coming so quick, I had to dominate, dominate, dominate inside. I had the ability to step out, go around defenders, dribble by people, but I never got to show that. I had to focus on being the most powerful, dominant player to ever play the game.”
O’Neal certainly succeeded in dominating. Throughout his 19-year career, he averaged 23.7 points, 10.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 2.3 blocks, all while knocking down 58.2 percent of his shots.
Yet, despite showing glimpses of creativity on the outside, the 7-foot-1 center mainly retained the role of a traditional big man, playing down low and scoring from inside. He admits that he and fellow inductee Yao Ming are some of the last true centers to be immortalized in the Hall of Fame.
“There won’t be another one like me, and like Yao, ever again,” O’Neal said. “We feel the dearth of the real center. I believe the way that I dominated, I made guys not want to come inside and feel the pain. That’s why you have a lot of guys stepping out and shooting jumpers now.
O’Neal believes that much of his game was influenced by the fact that most of the big men he looked up to never ventured far outside of the paint. And perhaps this is what birthed a new style of play, one that O’Neal might have been just as successful in.
“We’re all products of our environment, so when I was coming up, I saw big men playing in the middle,” O’Neal said. “The kids saw me playing and realized that they couldn’t endure the pain and nor did they want to take the pain. So they started shooting jumpers – a la Dirk Nowitzki.”