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Shaq remembers the high school game that ruined him as a free-throw shooter


Even as a high schooler, Shaquille O'Neal was a winner. Playing at Robert G. Cole High School, O'Neal led his team to a 68-1, winning the state championship his senior year. The only time they lost was when Shaq was a junior to a team with "a bunch of white guys who were small, fast, and shot the hell out of the ball."

The name of the school was Liberty Hill High School and that's their claim of fame, they beat Shaq.

Shaquille O'Neal, The Rex Chapman Show with Josh Hopkins

But it's not the loss that still bothers Shaq - he got used to it playing 19 years in the NBA. It's what happened towards the end of that state championship game that marked O'Neal forever, creating a massive hole in his game that the Hall of Famer was never able to fill.

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It was the beginning of my free-throw woes. I wasn't a great free-throw shooter; I was always 75, 76 (%). So we're playing against this team; I get into foul trouble; they're just shooting the lights out of the ball. We come back, a couple of seconds left, down by one, they fouled me. First time I was ever nervous. All the stuff that I learned just went away. And then when you miss, and everybody's laughing at you, now you get nervous again.

Shaquille O'Neal, The Rex Chapman Show with Josh Hopkins

Since that day, every time he would step on the free-throw line, Shaq got nervous. As a result, he finished his NBA career as a 52.7% free throw shooter, missing 5,317 shots from the charity stripe. Had he continued converting 75% of his attempts from 15 ft, O'Neal would've had 3,122 points more on the NBA all-time scoring list, which would've put him in the sixth place, in front of Wilt Chamberlain and Dirk Nowitzki. It would've also eliminated seasons like these:

Instead, O'Neal went through years of dealing with Hack-a-Shaq and being the subject of ridicule every time he would step on the 15 ft line. But once he would get the ball down low, all the taunting would end, and brute strength and dominance would take over. That was Shaq's way of exacting revenge, which also dates back to his high school matchup against Liberty Hill High School - one that took place his senior year.

After they beat me my junior year, we played them again, and I had 49/19/7.

Shaquille O'Neal, The Rex Chapman Show with Josh Hopkins

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