Rodman didn’t think Shaq was worth the deal he had signed with the Lakers, and he couldn’t wait to back his theory up. He got his chance on December 17, 1996, in what is today known as the game Dennis Rodman shut down O’Neal.
It was the first season matchup between the Lakers (18-8) and the Bulls (20-3), as Chicago looked to continue its dominance, adding another building block to already an all-time great dynasty. However, this game, in particular, didn’t start off that way. In fact, it was the exact opposite.
After the first 24 minutes, the Lakers were up 72-57 and were destroying MJ’s Bulls. They were led by Shaq’s 23 points on 10-for-15 from the floor, as it seemed like they were cruising towards their 19th win of the season. But Phil Jackson had an ace up his sleeve and in the second half, he decided to use it. And the ace was, putting Rodman on Shaq.
Upstroke – Shaq only scored 4 points in the second half, while taking only two shots in the entire fourth quarter and overtime. Dennis was playing his usual psychical and theatrical defense, which ended up making Shaq frustrated and taking him out of his rhythm. Enough for the Bulls to rally and win the game in overtime 129-123, after being down by 23 at one point of the game.
“People say that Rodman is this, Rodman is that, but they can’t deny he’s a helluva basketball player.”Dennis Rodman
O’Neal still had a great game (27 points and 13 rebounds) but couldn’t pass the second-half hurdle that was Dennis Rodman. It was an incredible display of hustle, heart, and courage by a guy who was 6 inches shorter and 100 pounds lighter than Shaq. He not only took on the challenge but dominated it and helped his team get the win, proving that, for at least that second half and overtime, Shaq really wasn’t worth the money.