Everyone knew Shaquille O’Neal had the tools to become an all-time great, but only a few dared to predict it as early as his college days. Shaq himself was one of the few.
O’Neal’s former LSU teammate Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (born Chris Jackson) remembered the exact moment Shaq foresaw the level of NBA greatness he would once reach. Spoiler alert; he reached it.
He said something when he was in college that I looked back on when he got to the league, and I said, ‘Man, he had some foresight on that one.’ He told me once, going into the shower, he said, ‘I’m gonna be the first player to make $80,90 million on a contract.’Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, The Rematch
Shaq made well over that. In fact, if you want to see precisely how much O’Neal has made, both on and off the court, as well as how he spends his money, check out the video below:
But despite Shaq earning millions of dollars, winning four NBA championships, and becoming one of the greatest players the league has ever seen, the thing that Abdul-Rauf remembers about O’Neal and what stood out to him when the two played at LSU is his approach to the game.
He had a viciousness about him like he didn’t want to be put into a box. That’s why he’d get it and bring it up the court; he’d throw the pass. He had an attitude when he played, and I’m not saying a negative attitude — he had an attitude of just wanting to be great.Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, The Rematch
What’s frustrating for Abdul-Rauf is that most people don’t remember Shaq’s unbridled determination and intense focus to succeed. Most people didn’t get to see it firsthand. Instead, the majority of NBA fans think of O’Neal as arguably the most dominant physical force in NBA history – one whose inability and unwillingness to elevate other aspects of his game kept him from having an even greater NBA career.
He never really developed a low mid-range game, which I believe could have made the game easier for him throughout his career and made it less demanding on his body. And his free throws never significantly improved, which could have done the same. But despite all of those things, he was still able to remarkably dominate for a long amount of time.Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Slam Online
It seems like Abdul-Rauf thinks Shaq could’ve done more. Regardless, his name as an all-time great is set in stone. And he saw it coming, even as a college player.