The modern NBA's history is filled with the stories of great perimeter players and their game-saving heroics. From Larry Bird and Magic Johnson's all-around brilliance to Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant's buzzer-beaters, the NBA and its fans often celebrated players who often have the ball in their hands. With the way the game is played today, big men are somewhat rendered obsolete, which leads to current NBA fans forgetting the great big men of the past. After the era of Bill Russell versus Wilt Chamberlain, the big man was never celebrated. In fact, when the early 2000s were dominated by names like Tim Duncan and Shaquille O'Neal, the league was said to be going through its dark ages. The NBA could not wait for the young phenom from Ohio, LeBron James, to enter the league and rid them of a style of play built around the big man.
The role of the great big men in the NBA is something we ought to remember, for what they lacked in flash, they made up for in efficiency and dominance. No big man was more dominant than Shaquille O'Neal, a 7'1, 325-pound beast that could run like a gazelle and possessed a finesse that one would not expect from such an enormous human being. Shaq was one of a kind, and it's hard to imagine any big man in league history fairing well against O'Neal in the post. O'Neal averaged 24 and 11 for his career with an eFG of 58%. He was not only bigger than everyone else, but his agility allowed him to unleash his unworldly power on opponents who dared stand in front of him.
In an appearance on the Jimmy Kimmel show a few nights ago, Shaq provided fans with a non-basketball example of just how strong he was back in his playing days.
"After a playoff loss, I was frustrated, and I started ripping the urinals off the bathroom walls in anger."
Shaquille O'Neal, via Jimmy Kimmel
Yes, you read that right. Remember those fixtures you see fixed to the walls of men's bathrooms, usually via cement? Shaq admitted to having dislodged five of those urinals after a playoff loss. The criticism of Shaq was that he didn't seem to want to put in the work necessary to become a dominant champion, but yet he managed to win four titles throughout his career. Even without the rings, if a guy manages to be so frustrated and strong that he can dislodge urinals fixed to walls with cement, then I must say that it seems like he wants to win just as badly as the next guy.