Shaquille O’Neal is one of the more dominant forces in NBA’s history, as he was an unsolvable enigma for his opposition for years. But that doesn’t mean that Shaq himself didn’t face guys throughout his career that were just tough matchups for him. Oddly enough, the guys Shaq named wouldn’t be the usual suspects.
Ernie Johnson asked Shaq what player gave him the most trouble. Shaq didn’t name one, but foru guys he hated to see on the other side of the court.
“I had three guys that I could just not stop. I couldn’t guard them. First one was ‘Big Country’ Reeves; he would pick and pop my a–. Second one was Rik Smits early on before we faced you off in the Finals. He used to kill me. Another one was Zydrunas Ilgauskas. And then the last one is Gheorghe Muresan. He used to give me numbers in Washington.”Shaquille O’Neal, Open Court
As Charles pointed out afterward, Shaq named four guys even though he said he would give us three names. We didn’t mind, as we got a unique list of players with a similar skill set that Shaq apparently had trouble stopping. Those are not some of the greater centers Shaq had to face, but their game revolved around actions Shaq just couldn’t figure out.
When Ernie asked Shaq to narrow it just to one player, he immediately named Bryant “Big Country” Reeves and explained why he had trouble with him:
“Guards that don’t play defense, they always tell bigs to show. So I would show and ‘Big Country’ 15 feet away, and I had to rotate back. And he had the ugliest one-hand Duckworth jumper. He shot it, and it always go in…he was killing me.”Shaquille O’Neal, Open Court
It was a great segment, as some of the legends named guys that weren’t stars but had a particular playstyle or move that just gave them nightmares— the best possible example that basketball is a matchup sport.