Shaq didn’t set the criterion when deciding his five, but he obviously picked it based on positions. Still, two names O’Neal went with do come as a surprise. And for opposite reasons.
Steph Curry, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant, despite the injuries, or the lack of winning, at this point, are a lock to make anyone’s list. Looking at the season he’s having with the 76ers; you can say the same thing about Joel Embiid. But the fact Shaq said it might catch some people off guard.
The Hall of Famer has been one of Embiid’s biggest critics, calling the superstar out for “not playing hard enough,” despite the MVP-caliber numbers he’s been putting up. Now, Shaq has never been the one to hand out credit in the regular season – it’s all about championships, and he made that clear numerous times on Inside the NBA. And Embiid certainly hasn’t proved him wrong yet, despite accepting his criticism. But the fact Shaq put Embiid in his starting five is some sort of validation, and although deserved, it’s not something we’ve expected from O’Neal. Not yet, at least.
Another surprise on Shaq’s list is Damian Lillard. And this one is not about Shaq’s validation – he’s always been the one to praise the Blazers superstar. Instead, it’s about others – James Harden and Luka Doncic – having arguably a better case for being in the top 5 in place of Dame.
But I’m not mad about it. Lillard rarely gets the recognition he deserves and is once again having a great NBA season. So it’s nice to see someone giving him credit for it.