Shaquille O’Neal will always be remembered as one of the most dominant forces the NBA has ever seen. He had the most unique blend size, strength, speed, and agility for a player of his size and that made him an absolute nightmare for opposing big men to defend.
O’Neal hit his peak as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers as he propelled them to a three-peat, winning Finals MVP all three years. A few injuries slowed down O’Neal later in his playing career, but he still proved to be a force on any given night.
Despite his dominance, O’Neal did receive some criticism as there were certainly games or stretches where he did not give his full effort defensively. However, that may have been by design.
During an appearance on the “Lefkoe Show,” O’Neal revealed that he allowed Allen Iverson and other select players to score on purpose, as transcribed by Blake Schuster of Bleacher Report:
“There were guys that when we played them, I was such a fan I let them do what they wanted on me,” O’Neal told Lefkoe. “White Chocolate (Jason Williams), I want him to go to work. Vince Carter, A.I. (Allen Iverson) and Tracy McGrady.”
“Every time we played A.I., I liked him crossing over and he was tough,” O’Neal said. “I could’ve blocked his shot multiple times, I just didn’t want to.”
This is an interesting reveal from O’Neal as it is a bit jarring to hear that he simply allowed players to score despite being capable of defending them. He was so overwhelming that he could get away with it, but it does make one wonder whether or not the Lakers would have won more games had he taken them more seriously on a nightly basis.
The players O’Neal mentioned are all historically great, so it is hard to blame him for being such a fan despite being on the court. Still, it is difficult to argue with the results as those O’Neal-led Lakers were the last to three-peat in the modern era, a feat that should not be overlooked.
Those Lakers teams with O’Neal are a fond memory for most fans as they were a joy to watch and always performed in the postseason. Hopefully this current iteration of the purple and gold can find just as much success when the 2019-20 NBA season hopefully resumes.