Often forgotten in the debate for the Greatest Player of All-Time is NBA Legend Shaquille O’Neal. A four-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat, Shaq is considered one of the most dominant players to ever play the game. The league had to allow teams to play zone defense in the early 2000s, simply because nobody could guard Shaq one-on-one in the post, and after a three-peat with the Lakers, it just seemed unfair to have O’Neal on your team.
Players todays are getting lazy
As a product of his success, people listen when Shaq talks about the game, and when he criticizes the players of today’s NBA, it comes from a wealth of knowledge of what it takes to be a winner. Shaq joined former Laker teammate Robert Horry on his podcast to share his thoughts on the NBA players of today.
“We liked to compete against each other. Some of these guys are getting too lazy, too cute, and they want us to respect them?” - Shaquille O’Neal.
Like many players from his era, O'Neal scoffs at the emergence of super teams in the 2000s. Super teams are when superstars join forces to build a roster that tips the balance of talent in the league, a move that many believe to be pioneered by LeBron James when he decided to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. Some might say it’s the Boston Celtics, who in 2007 brought Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce together to create a powerhouse in Massachusetts. Shaq stresses that this was something that could not, and would not, ever happen back in his era.
“I would have teamed up with Jordan if I knew it was okay!” - Shaquille O’Neal.
Shaq did the same thing with the Lakers
Well, nobody ever said it wasn’t okay. Scottie Pippen and Charles Barkley joined the Rockets after their stints with the dynastic Chicago Bulls and Charles with the Phoenix Suns, but neither player ever seemed to have drawn criticism for either of those moves. But perhaps, this one might better refresh O’Neal’s memory, as his Los Angeles Lakers once had Gary Payton, Kobe Bryant, and an aging Karl Malone on one team in 2003-2004.
Isn’t that a superteam? Maybe they didn’t all plan for it to happen, but would the Lakers have done any roster moves back then without the approval of their two stars, Kobe and Shaq? I highly doubt that, and therefore, we can say Shaq has been on a superteam himself. In fact, he has been on a superteam that did not get the job done in terms of winning a championship. Maybe today’s players are soft and lack competitive fire, but if the reason for that is because stars are joining forces to build championship contenders in cities they enjoy living in, then it’s time to stop the revisionist history and acknowledge that this has been a part of the NBA for longer than we think.