The NBA is always evolving and the game today is much different from how it was even 10 years ago.
This era has been the opposite as it has been perimeter players and point guards who control the game. The likes of LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden, and Stephen Curry have taken things over while players such as reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo provide the best of both worlds.
Big men aren’t utilized in the same way they were in years past, but O’Neal sees himself in one player specifically. People often wonder how he would be able to survive in today’s game that is all about spacing and shooting three-pointers. O’Neal recently pointed to Antetokounmpo as who he would look like had he played in today’s game, according to Jackie MacMullan and Kirk Goldsberry of ESPN:
“I would actually love to play in this NBA,” O’Neal says. “I would bring a little bit more physicality. I would bring my length, I would bring my athletic-ness. So, before you say, ‘Shaq can’t play in this era today,’ I’m already playing.
“My name is Giannis Antetokounmpo.”
While the comparison might seem odd to some, it actually makes a lot of sense when looking at the numbers that Antetokounmpo has put up over the past couple of seasons. Last season, he became the first player since O’Neal in 2001 to average at least 27 points and 12 rebounds while shooting over 57 percent from the field. The only other person to ever put up those numbers was another Lakers and Bucks legend in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Antetokounmpo is also an extremely talented playmaker, able to handle the ball like a guard and set up his teammates for open shots. O’Neal wasn’t quite as good on that front but he could certainly run the break from time to time and was an excellent passer out of the post who averaged nearly four assists per game in 2000 and 2001.
The big man does seem to be making a comeback with Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic along with Antetokounmpo keeping things alive. They aren’t quite as dominant as O’Neal, but Antetokounmpo certainly brings some reminders at times and the big man has taken notice.