To become the most dominant force in NBA history, one could assume that Shaquille O’Neal spent countless hours on the hardcourt, working on his post moves and perfecting his technique. Part of this is true, as Shaq didn’t just spend long nights on the basketball court; he also locked himself inside an octagon.
Winning championships in bunches
To be in tip-top shape, NBA stars try different training regimens and methods. Some even try out other sports to serve as some form of cross-training. Shaq revealed that he started winning championships when he stepped out of the basketball court and into the cage. O’Neal admitted that during offseasons, he was aiming to be in wrestling shape. And that proved to be the formula for his success.
“I never came back in wrestling shape. I always come back in basketball shape, but basketball, for me, I had to run, jump and wrestle. So, once I started training MMA like… when I stopped training basketball and just started training MMA, that’s when I started winning championships,” O’Neal said, per the Big Podcast with Shaq.
In hindsight, it all makes a lot of sense. While Shaq was a basketball player, he wasn’t necessarily dribbling and shooting all the time. Rather, he was camping in the paint, moving and throwing bodies around — just like an MMA fighter. Up to a certain extent, we can say that this is also the main reason why Shaq sucked at the free throw line. His body wasn’t just tuned to be a basketball player but a cage fighter.
It’s difficult to imagine a similar training regimen to work in this era. While there’s still a ton of physicality involved in today’s game, big men need to possess more finesse than brute these days. Getting too muscular and robust is not ideal as it could be easily countered with speed and quickness.
A good example is Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo. Some have compared him with Shaq as they seemingly move their defenders’ bodies around like crash test dummies. The comparison stops when Giannis starts running the fast break and Euro stepping. Unlike Shaq, Giannis is a versatile defender who could stay in front of quick guards or hefty big men.
Whatever the case may be, Shaq’s revelation about his training regimen is definitely an eye-opener. It all makes perfect sense to his victims like Vlade Divac, Dikembe Mutumbo, Todd MacCulloch, Scott Pollard, and a slew of others. They didn’t have any shortcomings. Shaq was way just ahead of the curve.