Shaquille O'Neal was one of the best bigs ever to play the game. His place among the all-time greats is already secured, but Kevin Garnett gave The Big Diesel one of the highest props a player could give to another.
Shaq was the face of the league
It's easy to forget how good Shaq was. O'Neal was one of the last back-to-the-basket bigs who had wasn't familiar with the concept of shooting outside the paint. Despite this, he averaged 23.7 points, 10.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 2.3 blocks throughout his career. Imagine what those numbers would be if he had a 3-point shooting in his arsenal or made 70 percent of his foul shots.
For Kevin Garnett, Shaq was another big who etched his name in the game's history because of his dominance during his heydays and was once the face of the NBA post-Michael Jordan era. In part 2 of the KG podcast series, Kendrick Perkins and KG talked about many things, and when it came to Shaq, the two agreed that he was once the face of the league.
"Kendrick Perkins: 'Like, was Shaq ever the face of the league?'
Kevin Garnett: 'Hell yeah, Shaq was the face of the league. You don't think Shaq was the face of the league at one point?'
Kendrick Perkins: 'Short stint, maybe.'
Kevin Garnett: 'Soon as Mike left, it was Diesel... Shaq was the f***ing first superstar. Man, we never had no superstar rhymin and f***ing dancing. Shaq has a platinum album, he sold a million.'"
Post Michael Jordan era
There were a lot of superstars in the NBA after MJ retired. It was a golden era where many superstars were trying to prove they were the next face of the league. There was Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson, Kevin Garnett, and Vince Carter. All had different strengths and weaknesses, but for the former Boston Celtics forward, Shaq was the man.
MJ retired in 1998, returned, and retired again in 2003, but he was not the player he once was. Looking at O'Neal's numbers in the years after Jordan left the game, Kevin's high praise has some merits in it.
Shaq's averages in the 1999/2000 season:
29.7 points (career-high), 13.6 rebounds, and three blocks in 79 games. Shaq won the MVP award for the 1999-2000 season. These highlights could give fans another reason to believe in the hype around Shaq back in the day.
O'Neal may be goofy at times, but he knows when to get down to business. Some say he could have won more rings but winning four rings isn't bad. Shaquille O'Neal once owned the league, and fans who could watch it were fortunate enough to have witnessed such a level of dominance.