Even before he got drafted to the NBA, Larry Bird had a lot of praise for Shaquille O’Neal
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Even before he got drafted to the NBA, Larry Bird had a lot of praise for Shaquille O’Neal

When you look back at Shaquille O’Neal’s career, you can definitely say he justified all the hype surrounding him in the early ’90s before he got drafted by the Orlando Magic. Of course, some would say he could’ve put more effort in preparation and keeping his body in the right shape and therefore win more championships, but Shaq is remembered as one of the most dominant players in NBA history. During his LSU days, it was evident Shaq would go down as the number 1 pick in the 1992 draft.

At that time, the NBA featured numerous great centers, but Shaq was immediately characterized as different from all the others, and before the draft-night legends like Larry Bird and Magic Johnson shared their praise for Shaq. In an older interview, Magic said he is fascinated by the way Shaq moved up and down the court with his 7’1″ and 300-pound frame with such ease. He immediately recognized that it sets him apart from all the other big men in the league.

He is amazing, and the thing I like him about too is that he can run up and down the basketball court, and you can give it to him on the run, and he can make a good decision.

Magic Johnson, via Oldskoolbball

Bird, on the other hand, went even further by making a proclamation Shaq will already be the best player in the NBA, right beside Michael Jordan. After watching him play college ball, it didn’t take long for Bird to make this assessment of Shaq, but he noticed he was a bit rough on the edges, which usually goes away after some time in the NBA.

If he does the things he is supposed to do, after watching him play, I think he is the best player other than Michael Jordan. I think once he gets into the league and establishes himself, he is going to be the same type of player. He won’t be as flashy, but he is right up there with the best of them.

Larry Bird, via Oldskoolbball

Shaq would have a monster rookie season averaging 23.4 points, 13.9 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks per game. He won the Rookie Of The Year award and pretty much immediately established himself as the most dominant player in the NBA. He would later win four championships and built up an impressive NBA resume that only a handful of players can match still to this day.