“Mr. Stern, next time somebody Hack-a-Shaq me, I don’t mind taking 15-20 games.”

“Mr. Stern, next time somebody Hack-a-Shaq me, I don’t mind taking 15-20 games.”

The ultimate sign of dominance is the league changing rules to make the game more fair for your opponents. After shooting a free throw in an NBA game, the shooter is not allowed to cross the foul line (where they take the shot) until the ball hits the rim. Why? The NBA made that rule because of Wilt. Chamberlain that 49 percent of the time, after missing a dunk he could leap from the foul line to rebound his own shot and dunk it.

Shaquille O’Neal had a similar honor bestowed upon him. Shaq was so dominant that the only way to stop him was to foul him. Teams did it so aggressively that they would try to foul Shaq off the court. Whoever had the ball, just foul Shaq and send him to the free-throw line. So we got the “hack-a-Shaq.” Shaq understood his size and strength didn’t leave a lot of options on the table for the opposition, but he was getting sick of it. 

“One thing I love about David Stern, he was real. So we go into his office one day, ’cause I’m at the end, and I’m letting him know. ‘Mr. Stern, next time somebody Hack-a-Shaq me, I don’t mind taking 15-20 games.‘ and he says ‘Son, if we called every foul that was committed on you, the game would last 4 hours.’

Shaquille O’Neal, ESPN

Stern went on to tell Shaq while he’s complaining about getting fouled, 28 other teams are complaining about Shaq. Nothing particular, just his existence in the game. Teams were asking for rule changes, or the Hack-a-Shaq would continue. O’Neal said he took the fouls as a compliment, admitting there is no other way to stop him.

What annoyed Shaq, and made Stern’s argument resonate, were all the free throws. Not only was Shaq bad at them, but it ruined the flow of the game. It became a free-throw contest, not a basketball game. So Shaquille decided that he would withstand the fouls and become truly unstoppable. 

If Stern didn’t calm him down and Shaq took “15-20 games,” it would probably be more and someone would end up in intensive care. Glad that didn’t happen, for all parties involved.