Shaquille O’Neal is one of the most successful players ever. In saying that, I am taking into account his success after retiring from basketball. He makes more money in a year today than he did as a player.
But, there is always a sense of underachievement with Shaq. A lot of people feel he could’ve won more if he was more committed to basketball. Shaq was always interested in movies, music, and business ventures. He is a fun-loving guy and that perception of a joker always made it seem he isn’t giving his 100%.
Rest is at the forefront of sports science today and NBA teams are investing millions in learning about sleep patterns and mileage they put on players’ bodies. It seems Shaq was a visionary before his time. As he described it, due to his size everyone would, “touch me up” when playing against him. So he felt there is no point to get hit two times, in practice and in games. That is why he wouldn’t work hard in practice but would give it all in the games.
Measuring players’ success is a two-way formula – we take the measurables (rings, wins, points scored, etc.) and add the intangibles (character, winning drive, clutch, etc.). When it comes to championships, Shaq said he only wanted one. All others were a bonus.
Only regret I have right now, its two regrets. Actually, three. Missing five thousand free-throws. Not passing up Wilt Chamberlain in points. Not being higher on the scoring list. That’s it, those are the only regrets.Shaquille O’Neal, In Depth with Graham Bensinger
When you think about it, these are all very connected. It comes down to the all-time scoring list. Shaq finished his career at 28.596 which puts him in 10th place all time. Wilt is at 7th with 31.419. So he is 2.823 points shy of Wilt – if he had made a bit over 50% of those missed free throws, he would’ve passed Wilt.
This comes down to being the most dominant player ever, and Shaq obviously feels Wilt is his only rival in that category. That is the title he wants to have the most, here is his reasoning behind it.
That was my niche. I wasn’t going for the greatest player niche. I wasn’t going for the best. I wasn’t going for that ’cause those words are just thrown out. Words like “most dominant”, you gotta earn that. Wilt averaged 50 in one season. He did, he averaged 50 in one season. So, when I got really close to him I think I had to average 10-12 points my last year in Boston to pass him up. So when I had my career-ending injury I was like “damn, not gonna pass Wilt”Shaquille O’Neal, In Depth with Graham Bensinger
We all talk about the rings he could’ve won if he stayed in Los Angeles with Kobe. Interesting to learn when it comes to rings, Shaq was happy with one and what he was chasing was the most dominant title. Goes to show their motivation isn’t always what we assume.