Patrick Ewing and Shaquille O'Neal were some of the best centers throughout the '90s, and even though Shaq often said Ewing was someone he looked up to when coming to the NBA, there was one situation where he was ready to fight him. In his book "Shaq Talks Back," he remembers a wild game between the Lakers and the Knicks back in 2000, famous because of a fight between Kobe Bryant and Chris Childs.
Both Knicks and Lakers were serious championship-contending teams, and regular games back then were much different, filled with intensity, and a lot of times, it seemed like playoff-type games. At one point during the game, Childs and Bryant got into it, which initiated a fight between them, with Childs landing a few punches that almost triggered a brawl between the two teams.
Shaq talks about being an enforcer for his squad and trying to protect Kobe at all costs, so when other Knick players wanted to get into it, especially Patrick Ewing, Shaq was ready to fight him to showcase nobody can mess with his teammates.
"By the time Childs threw the first two punches, everybody in there was trying to break it up. Kobe tried to swing back, but he couldn't get it. But look closer at the tape. You'll see me trying to take the attention away from him getting hit. Right after the altercation, I pushed Patrick Ewing. I wanted Ewing to come back. I was gonna mess Ewing up. I promise you I was."
By 2000, Ewing was already past his prime, while Shaq was the most dominant player in the NBA, almost unstoppable, especially in that season when he won the MVP and later on his first title. He even admits he had a lot of resentment toward Ewing at that point and was looking for an excuse to engage in a physical altercation with Ewing just to showcase he is the alpha dog in the NBA.
"I had a lot of resentment built up about Ewing over the years. If he stepped up, I was gonna give Ewing a two-piece. I was gonna knock Ewing out, hit him with a bip-bip-bip. For real. Just to take the attention off Kobe's getting hit. But Ewing didn't budge at all. He was looking at them the whole time. He didn't want a piece of me."
Luckily for everyone involved, a brawl didn't happen except the fight between Childs and Bryant. There was some pushing around between other players, and Shaq and Ewing got into each other's faces, but a further confrontation didn't happen. Both Bryant and Childs were suspended after their fight, but there wasn't any bad blood between them afterward. It's interesting how Shaq described the whole scene and openly admitted he was willing to fight Ewing, who was his role model growing up. It seems he wanted to showcase his dominance not just from a basketball standpoint but also make a statement that he is there to protect his teammates and that nobody can mess with the team where he is the leader.