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Meet Sofoklis Schortsanitis, the man that was once touted as the European "baby Shaq"

Of course, Shaq heard all the hype about "baby Shaq" and gave him the business when they met in 2009
Sofoklis Schortsanitis

Sofoklis Schortsanitis

Before Giannis Antetokounmpo became the face of Greece basketball, there was Sofoklis Schortsanitis, who many believed would be the next Shaquille O'Neal. Schortsanitis was touted as "baby Shaq" not only because he possessed similar skills to the most dominant big ever in NBA history, but they also looked alike. Just watch Schortsanitis, and you'll see the visible resemblance.

Schortsanitis international reign

Before "Baby Shaq" made it to the NBA, he dominated the Euro League, where he won a title in 2014 with the Maccabi Tel Aviv and made it to the All-Euro League First team selection in 2011. He's been in the Greek League All-Star Game 5 times and has won the MVP in 2 of those. He was also a member of the Greece men's national basketball team that nabbed the silver medal in the 2016 FIBA World Championships, where he was one of the team's best players.

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What makes Schortsanitis comparable to O'Neal is how they dominated the court. Shaq is a traditional center that weighed 354 pounds (161 kg), was 7-foot-2, and had a wingspan of 2.18 meters. Like O'Neal, Schortsanitis's offense depended on the low post, and he was a nightmare on defense with his rim protection skills. Both big men are famously known for using their physical size to overwhelm everyone on the court.

The most notable game of Schortsanitis's career was in the 2006 FIBA World Cup Semi-Finals when he led Greece to a win against a jam-packed USA team. Note that the 2006 USA team was represented by players like prime LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, and Antawn Jamison. Schortsanitis was a problem against this US team, and he dropped 14 points in the victory.

Shaq gives Schortsanitis the business

Of course, Shaq heard all the hype about "baby Shaq" and noted when he'd face the Greek standout in a preseason-friendly matchup versus Schortsanitis's team, Olympiacos. It was a match centered around real Shaq versus the baby Shaq as the former ended up putting on a 12-point dominant performance against Schortsanitis.

Despite proving no match to O'Neal, Schortsanitis was still thrilled to go up against the big man: "I grew up watching Shaq, so it was great," said Schortsanitis, who always liked being compared to O'Neal. "It's a real honor that I can get a nickname of a player like that. He's an absolute power. I thought I was strong, but he's so strong. I really enjoyed it."

Schortsanitis didn't flourish in the NBA and never became the next Shaquille O'Neal, but at least he still played a massive part in his country's success. At the end of the day, Schortsanitis, or "baby Shaq" will always be considered a legend in the international basketball scene. 

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