During his heyday, Los Angeles Lakers legend Shaquille O’Neal was the most dominant player the NBA has ever seen.
With his blend of size, speed, physicality and touch, O’Neal was unstoppable anytime he got near the painted area. O’Neal led the Lakers to three consecutive NBA championships, winning three NBA Finals MVPs and one regular-season MVP during that span.
Single-covering the Lakers center was basically a death knell for opposing teams, so he faced constant double and even triple teams in an attempt to stop him from scoring. O’Neal would finish his career in eight in all-time scoring, a testament to how unguardable he was.
In a recent appearance on the “Big Podcast with Shaq,” O’Neal went off on Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert and said he had no chance of guarding him. Gobert fired back and said that he would lock up O’Neal, via Bleacher Report:
Rudy fires back at Shaq in our comments 👀🍿 pic.twitter.com/ReqZZ6Z6WZ
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 9, 2022
As was expected to be the case, Shaq had a hilarious response on TNT on Monday night:
"He's gonna hurt kids in the stands blocking yo shot." 😂
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) May 10, 2022
Gobert certainly has the reputation of being a lockdown defender, but to hear him say he would shut down O’Neal is laughable. At the peak of his powers, O’Neal had no equal in the middle of the paint and while Gobert might have the length to challenge the Hall of Famer, he loses out in the strength and physicality department.
Even in the modern NBA with a tighter whistle that rewards perimeter players, there would be no answer for O’Neal, who could gain position deep in the low post every time down the floor. There have been rare instances where O’Neal looked mortal, but to completely lock him up is a near-impossible task and something that even Gobert could not do.
However, current players like Draymond Green were realistic when it came to the idea of guarding O’Neal. Green said he probably could not shut him out, but earn at least a stop, which seems somewhat feasible.
O’Neal embraces idea of ‘Winning Time’ covering three-peat era
The Laker three-peat era headlined by O’Neal and Kobe Bryant remains one of the most impressive runs in NBA history. With the popular HBO series “Winning Time” ending its first season, O’Neal was open to the idea of season two covering he and Bryant’s run as the best one-two punch in the league.
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