When you talk about some of the most dominant players and seasons in NBA history, Shaquille O’Neal in the 2000 season has to be the first name that comes to your mind. At 28 years old, Shaq was in his prime, combining the right mix of strength, agility, and skill to dominate and terrorize the rest of the league. Shaq averaged 29.7 ppg, 13.6 rpg, and 3.8apg, all while leading his Lakers to a 67-15 record and his first championship.
It was a season unlike no other we ever seen before from an individual. Shaq, of course, got the MVP award but got left with a bitter taste due to one vote not being in his favor denying him the title of the first unanimous MVP in history. That one other vote went to Allen Iverson, who had a great season, but nowhere near Shaq’s. Shaq would stay salty about that till this day, while Stephen Curry in 2016 managed to become the first unanimous MVP ever, even though most people agree it should have been Shaq in 2000.
The crew of The Jump on ESPN talked about this topic on their show back in 2019, and Scottie Pippen gave us some interesting insights on Shaq. He firstly described why Shaq was one of the rare players he feared.
“It was not fun playing against Shaq. I didn’t fear too many players during my career, but Shaq’s one of those guys that I feared, and the fact you had to come down and double team on him. He had the speed, the power, the spins.”Scottie Pippen, The Jump
Scottie then explained how his teams prepared to guard Shaq, saying you didn’t have too many options. When he was playing with the Bulls, this was a bit easier task due to the strength of their team, but when Pippen was playing for the Blazers and fighting to get out of the Western Conference in the early 2000s, he saw firsthand how unstoppable Shaq was.
“He was just a very difficult guy for us to defend as a team. Not for me as an individual, but I had to come down and double team. That was almost worse than guarding him because he would swing with his arms. Our whole gameplan was if you gonna double-team Shaq, you better get there before they get the ball in there because if you get there after, you’re just gonna be a part of a poster.”Scottie Pippen, The Jump
To cap it off, Scottie explained how there is a difference between being the best player and the most dominant player, separating MJ and Shaq in the GOAT conversation.
“To me, Shaq was the most dominant. I would say Michael is probably the most unstoppable, but when you talk about dominant like we used to try to stop Shaq from running like that was kinda the gameplan. Don’t let Shaq run. Don’t even think about him getting the ball; just stop him from running. He gonna beat most of the players down the court.”Scottie Pippen, The Jump
What Scottie pointed out is a huge reason why Shaq was so dominant. It wasn’t all about the strength. Shaq could move fast at 7’1” and 350 pounds, run the floor, and use his footwork to punish opponents. That blend of agility, strength, and length is precisely what made him the default most dominant player of all time in the eyes of the great Scottie Pippen and most of the NBA world.
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