Shaquille O’Neal Praises Trio of NBA Big Men, Dismisses Others

Shaquille O'Neal shares his picks for top NBA centers.

by Faizan Chaudhary
Shaquille O’Neal Praises Trio of NBA Big Men, Dismisses Others
© Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Warner Bros. Discovery

Shaquille O'Neal, a legendary figure in NBA history with a career boasting 23.7 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game, stands as a towering authority in the realm of basketball's big men. With four NBA championships, three Finals MVP titles, and a league MVP award from 2000 under his belt, O'Neal carries substantial weight when discussing the elite centers of the game.

In a recent episode of "The Draymond Green Show," O'Neal shared his admiration for three contemporary NBA giants—Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, and Victor Wembanyama. These players, according to Shaq, epitomize the essence of true big men in an era where the traditional center role has evolved dramatically.

While the game has shifted towards centers and power forwards with perimeter skills, O'Neal's definition of a big man remains rooted in dominance within the paint and leveraging physical size. He praises Embiid for blending qualities of O'Neal's own in-the-post prowess with the finesse of Hakeem Olajuwon.

Jokic, on the other hand, conjures memories of Brad Daugherty and Arvydas Sabonis for Shaq, thanks to his exceptional skill set. Despite battling injuries, Embiid showcased his overwhelming presence in the 39 games he played last season, averaging 34.7 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 5.6 assists.

Jokic, freshly crowned as the 2024 MVP, continued to impress with averages of 26.4 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 9.0 assists across 79 games.

Wembanyama Impresses O'Neal

Rookie of the Year Victor Wembanyama also caught O'Neal's eye.

Though the 7-foot-4 Spurs newcomer deviates from the traditional big man build and style, Shaq sees a bright future for him in the league, noting his unique abilities despite his slender frame. O'Neal humorously expressed his envy of the modern big man's freedom to expand their game beyond the paint, wishing he had the opportunity to showcase similar versatility during his era.

"I'm jealous of them," Shaquille confessed. "Back in my day, stepping out to shoot a three was almost taboo for a big man like me, but I tell you, if I made one, it felt good—I'd joke that I was the 'Black Steph Curry.'

" Reflecting on his time, O'Neal recognized that his era demanded a different style, focused predominantly on interior domination. Yet, he can't help but imagine the possibilities had he been part of today's more versatile and dynamic NBA landscape.

This blend of nostalgia and respect for the current generation's talents underscores Shaq's ongoing passion for the evolution of basketball's big men.