Skip to main content

Shaquille O'Neal explains what makes Tim Duncan the only big man he ”could never break”

Patrick Ewing, David Robinson and Alonzo Mourning weren't as much of a challenge for Shaq as facing The Big Fundamental was.
Los Angeles Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal and San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan

Shaquille O'Neal and Tim Duncan

Shaquille O’Neal is the most dominant player in NBA history. Some say he had a legitimate chance of being the Greatest of All Time. With such distinctions, one would assume that Shaq had little difficulty navigating his way in the big men’s world. But in reality, there was one player with whom O’Neal had a tough time.

The Big Fundamental

What makes Shaq the most dominant player in NBA history is that he didn’t just utilize brute strength to win. He also had some mind games up his sleeve. According to Shaq, Tim Duncan was the only one who slapped his trash-talking attempts with a nonchalant look.

The Spurs won because of Tim Duncan, a guy I could never break. I could talk trash to Patrick Ewing, get in David Robinson’s face, get a rise out of Alonzo Mourning, but when I went at Tim he’d look at me like he was bored. Whenever I run into a Tim Duncan fan who will claim Tim Duncan is the GOAT, I won’t disagree with him,” O’Neal wrote in his autobiography “Shaq Uncut: My Story

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

This isn’t one of those stories that Shaq packaged to boost Duncan’s stature. Those who saw him play agree with Shaq’s observation. Duncan showed very little emotion on the court. Even after posterizing someone through a dunk or a block, Duncan would run back to the other side of the floor like a robot.

Basketball perfection

In a way, Duncan’s persona defined the Spurs’ playstyle. To a casual fan, watching the Spurs from the 2000s to the early 2010s was a boring exercise. There were no flashy dunks. They rarely ran the fastbreak. The only highlight was Tony Parker’s spin move and Manu Ginobili’s Euro Step.

To the expert eye, watching the Spurs play was seeing basketball perfection. Gregg Popovich’s system featured crisp ball movement, perfect rhythm, and pristine defense. Once in a while, Duncan bullied his way to the ring, which made for a great highlight. But he mostly killed his opponents with an off-the-board jumper from the elbow or the low post.

Shaq isn’t the only one who chucked Duncan’s name into the GOAT conversation. Charles Barkley actually once declared that Duncan is the power forward GOAT. Perhaps the main reason Duncan hasn’t been included in the same sentence as Michael Jordan or LeBron James more often is the Big Fundamental’s lowkey profile.

He was part of Popovich’s coaching staff in the 2019-20 NBA season but stepped down in November 2020. Now, we know very little about Duncan’s post-NBA career. If Duncan regularly appeared on podcasts or basketball shows, people would be reminded of how great he is. We’ll do our best to remind you once in a while. 

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic

“I don’t want to disappoint him" - Nikola Jokic credits the person behind his life-changing weight loss

Nikola Jokic has entrusted his career and life to the Nuggets' strength and conditioning coach. And he didn't make a mistake.

Indiana Pacers guard Reggie Miller

“I knew immediately” — Reggie Miller on scoring 8 points in 8.9 seconds against the New York Knicks

Reggie Miller gave Knicks forward Anthony Mason some props for delivering the best chest pass he's ever seen.

Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green

“I don't think it will happen” — Draymond Green on getting a contract extension with the Golden State Warriors

Draymond said he won't let his contract situation get in the way of defending the title. Let's see if he feels the same way when Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins get an extension.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant

“He was crying, bro” — Chauncey Billups revealed why Kobe Bryant was crying after making it to the 2009 NBA Finals

Kobe Bryant was so determined to win a championship without Shaquille O'Neal to the point that his emotions oftentimes consumed him.

Los Angeles Dodgers partner Magic Johnson and wife Cookie Johnson

“I bribed her. I gave her a million dollars” — Cookie Johnson's condition to allow Magic Johnson to return in 1995

The money was just a cherry on the top. Cookie gave Magic a clear ultimatum, or else she would've divorced him.

Shaquille O'Neal and Vince Carter

“I felt like it was close“ — Vince Carter revealed that he was close to teaming up with Shaquille O'Neal

Shaquille O'Neal's unwillingness to play in Canada was a harsh truth pill to swallow for Vince Carter, whose career would've probably been different if he had teamed up with O'Neal.

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry and Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo

“I appreciate the compliment. It's not going to soften me at all.” — Steph Curry brushes off Giannis Antetokounmpo calling him the “best player in the world”

Compliment or not, Steph Curry says he’s not going to let Giannis Antetokounmpo get into his head with some gamesmanship.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook

"We can be unstoppable in my opinion" - Russell Westbrook does not mind coming off the bench for the Los Angeles Lakers

Nothing screams soap opera in the making more than the current situation of the Los Angeles Lakers.