You Don't Know Shaq

Dateline: 12/11/96

So you think Shaquille O'Neal is a bum? All he does is dunk. His defense is mediocre. He'd rather shoot a movie than a free throw. Little Penny makes more passes than Shaq, though most of those are aimed at Tyra Banks.

If Shaq has so many weaknesses, why was he named one of the Fifty Greatest Players in the NBA? You can play our uplifting little game below to give you some idea.

Question nUmBeR 1

In 1993 Shaq was the first rookie All-Star Game starter since what player?

Larry Bird
Michael Jordan
David Robinson

Success at an early age is a key indicator of future success. Just as kids who excel early in school tend to have an easier time later on, NBA players who adapt quickly to higher levels of competition often turn into Hall of Famers. There have been exceptions, but many of these have played on relatively poor teams and just have looked good in the context of bad teammates. All-time greats like Wes Unseld, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, and David Robinson, however, have been significant contributors to winning clubs in their first seasons. Like all these players, Shaquille was the primary reason for his team's improvements in his rookie season.


Which center has the best win/loss record against Shaq?

Patrick Ewing
David Robinson
Hakeem Olajuwon
Alonzo Mourning

Wilt Chamberlain was always criticized for not being able to beat Bill Russell, winning less than 40% of his matchups with the less flamboyant Celtic. At this point in his career, Shaq can only be criticized for not winning enough against the less flamboyant Spur, David Robinson. Against the Spurs, Shaq's teams are only 3-6 and one of those wins came this year with Robinson on the bench. Against the Olajuwon-led Rockets, the Ewing-led Knicks, and the Mourning-led team with the widest wallets, Shaquille has done quite well. Despite the four-game sweep in the '95 Finals, O'Neal is 7-7 overall against the Rockets. Against the Knicks, O'Neal's teams have gone 11-8 and he has seemingly gained a mental edge on the defensive Ewing. Against the guy who was drafted right after him, O'Neal's teams have gone 9-7.

This is a good sign for Shaquille. Though Russell never put up the individual numbers that Chamberlain did, he meshed with some quality teammates and together they won the important games. Shaq, too, has been blessed with some good teammates and, even though he is a poor foul shooter without a whole lot of traditional offensive moves, his teams have been as successful as those of the other modern centers with the exception of Olajuwon, who arguably may not have won a title if Michael Jordan hadn't taken a couple years off.

Question Trey

Through the '80's, with the success of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, players strived to have a wide variety of skills. How many of the following things can it be said that Shaq is good at?


Creating Own Shot
Outside Shooting
Foul Shooting

Even though Bird and Magic were successful with all-around games, you don't have to be an all-around player to be great. Shaq is a dominant player because he can create his own shot and he can finish that shot. Granted, he doesn't create his own shot like Olajuwon or like a guard. He just isn't affected by the contact in the post and when he gets position, he does not lose it. Though he is criticized as "just a dunker", Shaq can get a dunk much easier than anyone else in the league. Even though Rik Smits can dunk at the same percentage as Shaq, he will probably never have 10 dunks in an NBA game as Shaq has done. If you can create easy shots as well as Shaq can, you don't have to pass like Bird and Magic did.

Shaquille is also a great player because he is a center. A good center forces a defense to evacuate the outside, leaving better shots for their teammates. A good center is also the heart of a defense and, though Shaq is not the best defensive center in the league, he is intimidating enough to clog the middle. Being able to play a good defensive center who also can score gives a team a tremendous advantage.

QUESTION For All The Marbles

So is Shaq worth it?


Welllll... It's hard to say if anyone is worth $125 Million. But, given his youth and his ability to carry a team, Shaq is clearly one of the most positively influential players in all of basketball. There are only a handful of players who would be welcome on any team in the league and Shaq is one of them.