How Stephen Curry’s Ace Shooting Prowess Kept Lakers Legend Shaquille O’Neal Humble

Published 05/01/2022, 11:30 PM EDT
LOS ANGELES, CA – MARCH 14: TV personality/retired basketball player Shaquille O’Neal onstage at The Comedy Central Roast of Justin Bieber at Sony Pictures Studios on March 14, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. The Comedy Central Roast of Justin Bieber will air on March 30, 2015 at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal is one of the most dominant players to play in the NBA. He played in an era when most of the big men didn’t shoot 3-pointers. Many wouldn’t even attempt long 2 pointers. The centers were expected to post up and try to score when given the ball. With assists to cutting teammates now and then and shot-stopping in the defensive end.

And O’Neal was phenomenal in everything. But one of the biggest flaws in Shaq’s game was his inability to hit the free throws consistently. Which made the opposition foul him constantly. 

In his guest appearance for ‘The Pivot Podcast’, he was asked about his free throw issues. Channing was surprised how Shaq couldn’t make free throws being as tall as he is. He even joked about the size of a basketball in Shaq’s huge hands.

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And the Big Diesel said that his struggles with free throws helped him to be humble. O’Neal said, “I think it was a way to keep me humble. Imagine me being me and shooting like Steph Curry, I wouldn’t even be here right now. I would be so mo**er fu**ing arrogant.”

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“Think about that. That just kept me humble. It was something I knew I wasn’t really good at and I had to work and it made me vulnerable.”

Shaquille O’Neal and ‘Hack-A-Shaq’

Centers back in the day didn’t play like the modern centers of today. And the Lakers legend was one of the best centers if not the best. His sheer strength and power coupled with his quickness for a big man made him impossible to deal with. And it was brutal for the players that had to defend him.

PHOENIX – DECEMBER 21: Shaquille O’Neal #33 of the Cleveland Cavaliers shoots a free throw shot during the NBA game against of the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on December 21, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Cavaliers defeated the Suns 109-91. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Even though most centers at the time struggled with free throws, he suffered more. Because he was an easy target. Instead of allowing him the chance to post up and punish your defender and then dunk on him while breaking the backboard, teams chose to foul him early and live with the consequences. 

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Hence the term, ‘Hack-A-Shaq’. And the term is still used in basketball as a strategy where a team constantly fouls the opposing team’s worst free-throw shooter. 

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During his career, O’Neal averaged just 52.7% from the free-throw line in 1207 games. Even though he has made 1 of every 2 free throws, it isn’t considered good enough for a player of his stature. 

Also, there was no other way to defend a prime Shaquille O’Neal, he had to be defended physically. And we can only wonder what Shaq could’ve achieved with a shooting touch like Stephen Curry.

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Bagavathi Eswaran

194 articles

Bagavathi Eswaran is an NBA writer at EssentiallySports. He has been playing the game of basketball for more than 20 years now and has also been following the NBA for more than 10 years. After not being able to go pro, this former college player decided to join the IT industry.

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