He started things off on the Orlando Magic with Penny Hardaway, then moved to the Los Angeles Lakers with a young Kobe Bryant. Following their split, O’Neal played with Dwyane Wade on the Miami Heat and even had a stint with LeBron James on the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Despite all of these stops coming at completely different stages of his career, O’Neal managed to learn something of real value about each of the players he came across. His former feuds with Bryant are well documented, but it’s obvious now that there’s no teammate he respected more and no one he loved playing with more than him.
When asked to describe his experiences with each of his teammates, O’Neal reached into the history books to find comparisons for each, according to Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson of Heavy.com:
However, Penny was a young Magic Johnson and I was a young Kareem. Kobe was a young Michael Jordan before he became Michael Jordan. And LeBron is both of them combined. And D-Wade was Kobe when he was coming into his own. I’ll just put it like that.
If not for injuries, Hardaway could have become one of the league’s all-time great point guards, so a comparison to the great Magic Johnson isn’t something to scoff at. The similarities between Bryant and Michael Jordan are clear at this point, but O’Neal goes the extra step to say that Bryant became Jordan after he left.
His praise for all of these truly great players shows exactly the type of person he’s become in his post-playing days. During his career, O’Neal always believed that he was the engine making things go. It’s impossible to blame him for thinking that as he is at worst the third greatest center of all time.
However, following his playing career, O’Neal really began to embrace the players he was lucky enough to share the court with and knows that it was more than just his greatness making things happen.