Shaq's dominance changed the game
In one of his older interviews with HuffPost, one of the most accomplished people and a true NBA legend Phil Jackson talked about Shaq and how his dominance changed the game. Soon after his NBA career started in 1992, Shaq established himself as one of the most dominant players in the game's history. Still, it was during his tenure with the Lakers that he was crowned as a game-changing player that made the NBA change a few rules that essentially led to the way the game is played right now.
"Shaq had a dominance that changed the game, and in that era when the league was making an adjustment, how they are going to allow defenses to happen. Shaq was the major component that allowed defenses to change. You can play a zone now; basically, they just have a three-second lane violation, and you can play any defense you want. Before that Shaq, it was difficult to defend against Shaq because you had to do it individually. You could double team, but you had to do it in a certain way, and Shaq was a great passer of the post. He was the man that changed the game into what we have now in this era which is really eliminated a lot of post play, which is okay. You should be able to play basketball however you want to play it, but Shaq's dominance changed the game."
After coaching against him for years while being the head coach on the Bulls, Jackson got the opportunity to team up with Shaq with the Lakers, which was exciting and challenging for him personally. With the Bulls, he never had a big man on Shaq's level, and having a center as the primary go-to guy on offense was something Jackson was willing to figure out and see how to utilize him to the best of his abilities.
"When I looked at that opportunity to coach him, I was extremely excited because I never had a dominant center to coach in an offense that really had a system built around putting the ball in the post and really activating a center, allowing him to be a dominant playmaker in the game."
Would Shaq be even more dominant in today's NBA?
Many fans wonder what type of impact Shaq would have in today's NBA with the lack of tough big men in the paint. Would he even be more dominant than before and easily average 35-40 points per game on a high efficiency? According to Jackson, teams would have to double-team him, leaving a lot of open shots for others on the floor. Nowadays, in a game where almost everyone can shoot, having Shaq on a team surrounded by shooters would be hard for any defense in the league.
"He would change how people play. Right now, everyone is playing with a screen-roll and three-point shooters sitting on the wings in the corners. If you had a player like Shaq, he would be putting pressure on the defense to make them collapse. He would be the guy finding the players out in the corners or the wings that are three-point shooters, and he wouldn't have to play a lot of screen and roll. I really don't think they would allow him to get to the paint and the basket, like they did back in the 90s."
In today's NBA, Shaq would maybe even have a similar impact as Nikola Jokic. With his dominance in the paint and the fact he was a willing passer, there is no question he would have games with 10+ assists when teams decide to double-team him in the post. Obviously, things would be easier for Shaq because the amount great big men in the NBA has declined in the last decade, unlike in the '90s, where you had several great centers that he had to go up against. So it's impossible to answer whether he would average 30 or 40 points in today's NBA, but he would be at least as dominant as he was when he still played in the NBA.