Shaquille O’Neal Lists Most Entertaining NBA Players, Praises Underrecognized 'King'

Exploring Legends Through Shaq's Basketball Heroes.

by Nouman Rasool
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Shaquille O’Neal Lists Most Entertaining NBA Players, Praises Underrecognized 'King'
© Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

In a candid revelation on "The Big Podcast," NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal, known for his stringent standards, shared his list of the most captivating players in basketball history. Despite co-host Adam Lefkoe's attempts to round out a top five, Shaq firmly chose to spotlight just four iconic figures, each embodying a unique era of the sport.

Topping Shaq's list is Julius 'Dr. J' Erving, a pioneer who Shaq credits as his personal inspiration for pursuing basketball. Reflecting on his youth, O'Neal reminisced about receiving an autographed Dr. J ball, which he describes as the best Christmas gift ever.

This moment was pivotal, especially when he witnessed Dr. J's electrifying performance at a Knicks game. "Dr. J goes baseline, throws it down, and the crowd goes crazy. That's when I said, ‘Okay, that’s what I wanna do,’" Shaq recounted, marking a turning point from a troubled youth to a focused, ambitious teenager.

Magic's Enduring Influence

Magic Johnson, another of Shaq's early idols, also made the list. Shaq fondly recalled reenacting Magic's iconic no-look passes with a childhood friend, symbolizing the showmanship and flair Johnson brought to the game.

Johnson's rivalry with Larry Bird, epitomized in these backyard games, underscored the era's competitive spirit. Michael Jordan, dubbed by O'Neal as the greatest of all time (GOAT), was naturally included. Shaq, having played against Jordan, prides himself on being part of the only team to eliminate MJ and the Bulls during their dominant eight-year run.

Jordan's influence on Shaq and the sport is immeasurable, with his skill and competitive fire setting a high bar for greatness. The fourth and final spot on Shaq's list goes to Steph Curry, a player he admires for revolutionizing basketball with his extraordinary shooting ability.

O'Neal's inclusion of Curry in the GOAT conversation underscores the latter's impact on the game, a testament to how he's reshaped basketball strategy with his shooting prowess. Conspicuously, Shaq refrained from naming a fifth player, leaving the list intriguingly incomplete.

His choices reflect not only the players' individual talents but also their contributions to the evolution of basketball, each bringing a unique 'Ah' or 'Ooh' to the game, as Shaq puts it. This selective acknowledgment from one of basketball's most dominant figures offers a rare insight into the players who have shaped the sport's history and inspired generations, including Shaq himself.

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