Today we travel back in the days when the Shaq effect was taking over the NBA. On August 7th of 1992, the Orlando Magic signed Shaquille O’Neal as their No.1 pick in NBA draft. This was the beginning of a wonderful basketball journey with lots of ups and downs. DunkStories did its research and presents to you some of the most noteworthy of Shaq’s incredible NBA career!
The Arrival To Orlando
After a tough childhood and a successful high school and college career in Robert G. Cole High School and LSU respectively, it was time for O’Neal to take the next step by joining the magical NBA world. The Orlando Magic offered him this opportunity in the summer of 1992.
Shaq’s arrival to the NBA was one of the most celebrated entrances in the history of sports. He was well-known before he even stepped on a NBA court. It’s indicative that he spent a considerable amount of that summer together with Magic Johnson in Los Angeles. Shaquille O’Neal made an incredible start in NBA, as he was named Player of the Week in his first week as an Orlando Magic player.
The stats of Shaq during his rookie season simply were breath-taking: 23.4 points – 13.9 rebounds and 3.5 blocks on average. No wonder why he earned the NBA Rookie of the Year award for 1993.
Shaq stayed in Orlando for three more years and he continued being dominant on court. Together with Penny Hardaway led the Magic in 1993-94 in the NBA playoffs for the first time in Orlando’s history. The ending of this journey was really fast (3-0 loss against the Pacers), but the Magic managed to reach to the 1995 NBA finals the next year. However, they lost the series against the defending champions Houston Rockets.
L.A. Is Calling
His last year in Orlando wasn’t ideal, due to injuries and his competition with Penny Hardaway. In 1996, the Los Angeles Lakers came across Shaq’s way. Shaquille O’Neal considered L.A. as the best choice for his career at this point. His desire to work on other projects outside of basketball such as rap music and acting was an extra motivation for him to join the Lakers.
O’Neal signed a lucrative 7 year contract of $121 million. In his first season, he numbered 26.2 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. The numbers of Shaq remained high the next two seasons but something wasn’t going right for the Lakers. His lack of focus on the game was one of the main arguments against him in L.A. On top of that, a rivalry with Kobe Bryant had started becoming evident. Both players wanted to be the leaders and this started building some extra tension within the team.
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Everything changes – for a while at least – when Phil Jackson was hired as the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers in 1999. He was the one who managed to take the best out of Shaq and help him ignore the noise around him. Moreover, he brought Kobe and Shaquille closer and achieved to create a nice and family-like environment between the players of the team.
These elements in combination with the incredible talent of the whole team and the leading performances of O’Neal and Bryant led L.A. to the three-peat! O’Neal was also voted as MVP of the regular season for 1999-2000.
The end of Shaquille O’Neal in Los Angeles came in 2004. After the three spectacular championship triumphs, things started to change again in the Lakers organization. Bryant was feeling that it was time for him to be under the spotlight, while O’Neal couldn’t accept that. Many paralleled Shaq to the jealous older brother of Bryant. Furthermore, Lakers were swept two consecutive times against the Jazz and the Spurs and as a result Phil Jackson was fired from the team. This was pretty much the final hit for the presence of O’Neal in Los Angeles.
Next Stop: Miami
The Miami Heat was the next destination in Shaq’s eventful basketball career. O’Neal arrived to Miami after a trade deal between the Heat and the Lakers. Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, Brian Grant and an upcoming first round draft choice were given to the Lakers.
Shaq was excited for this new opportunity and he wanted to prove that he wasn’t the one to blame in his tensed relation with Kobe. In that sense, he presented a very different profile when he arrived in Miami. He put himself one step behind Dwayne Wade who was the favorite kid of the town in Miami.
O’Neal stayed in Miami for four years and in 2006 managed to win his fourth NBA championship. Wade was the leading star of Heat’s success but O’Neal, Antoine Walker and Jason Williams had a great contribution to it, as well. Shaq averaged 13.7 points 10.2 rebounds in the final series against Dallas Mavericks.
The Final Years
After a rough last season with the Miami Heat in 2008, Shaquille O’Neal was traded to the Phoenix Suns. He stayed there only for a year and it actually was the first year in his career after his rookie season that Shaquille O’Neal didn’t manage to reach to the NBA Playoffs. In general, though, he performed better than his last year in Miami.
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O’Neal was traded to Cleveland Cavaliers in 2009. The stats of Shaq in Cleveland were disappointing as he had career lows in almost every category. But of course his less important role there played a significant role toward that. Nevertheless, he managed to reach to the Eastern Conference semifinals where the Cavs were eliminated by the Boston Celtics (4-2).
Last stop in this amazing career was Boston. Shaq joined the Celtics in 2010 and retired with their jersey on June of 2011. He announced his decision to retire in social media on the June 1st and he held a press conference about it on June 3rd.
Shaqtin’ A Fool
Shortly after his retirement O’Neal became part of the TV show Inside The NBA, the TNT post-game program. Using his incredible humor and smooth communication skills, Shaquille O’Neal is roasting players, referees, mascots and fans with great success. His most famous victim is JaVale McGee, the center of Golden State Warriors. Shaq also is part of the commentary team of the Inside The NBA show.
Shaq is Love, Shaq Is Life
Hate him or love him, Shaquille O’Neal is one of the most dominant guys that ever played the game. His natural talent in conjunction with his extraordinary physical characteristics made him one of the most fun to watch and memorable NBA players. It goes without saying, that Shaq could have achieved more if he was able to control his ego a bit better and if he was trying to focus a bit more on basketball in the early years. However, this is one of the things that make O’Neal special. His rebellious spirit and his straightforward character.
In the end of the day, you can do nothing more but admiring this guy for what he has achieved and being sure that somehow the Shaq Effect will kick in again!
Featured Image: Sportsmadeinusa.com