Shaquille O'Neal received 120 of 121 votes for the 2000 regular season MVP. The only one who didn't cast his vote for the Lakers superstar, denying him the first-ever unanimous MVP nod, was Fred Hickman.
For years, O'Neal was fuming at the former CNN reporter, referring to him as an "idiot," saying he "destroyed history by being an ass****." Still, the backlash the lone holdout had to face for his decision was in no way justified.
"I got death threats"
In his interview with Fox Sports Florida's Chris Tomasson, Hickman talked about the aftermath of casting his vote for Philadelphia 76ers guard Allen Iverson, ruining what would've been a historic feat for Shaq.
The MVP award was and still is open to voters' subjective interpretation. With no established criterion when deciding on the winner, Hickman took the liberty of going against the dominant narrative in the league during that time. And it backfired.
“I certainly didn’t mean to be the lone one,” he said. “I picked the guy who was the most valuable to his team. Philadelphia without Iverson was a CBA team, and if the Lakers didn’t have Shaq, they would have still been a pretty good team.”
Iverson had a very good season -- 28.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 2.1 steals a game, leading the 76ers to 49 wins and No.4 seed in the East. But it was no match for what was arguably the best statistical year of O'Neal's All-Time great NBA career.
Years of (justifiably) holding the grudge
"I love Steph. He's my guy. But come on," O'Neal said after the Warriors superstar became the first-ever unanimous choice for the Most Valuable Player award in 2016. It's not that Shaq didn't feel like Steph deserved it; he just knew Curry shouldn't have been the first one to do it. And he has a point.
As mentioned, Iverson's 1999-00 season was amazing. But Shaq took it to another level.
Other than leading the Lakers to a league-best 67 wins, O’Neal led the league in scoring with a career-best 29.7 points per game. He also led the NBA in field-goal percentage, shooting 57.4% from the field. Diesel also averaged 13.6 rebounds (2nd in the league) and 3.03 blocks (3rd in the league), along with a career-high in assists with 3.8 per game.
Everyone recognized his unmatched dominance. Everyone but Hickman, whose pick finished 7th in MVP voting, behind Kevin Garnett, Alonzo Mourning, Karl Malone, Tim Duncan, and Gary Payton.
Shaq is still probably salty about it, and he has every right to be. But based on what Hickman had to deal with in the aftermath of voting, a lot of people took it too far.