Shaquille O’Neal in 2011: “Phil Jackson Didn’t Want Me to Score More Than Michael Jordan

Published 11/21/2021, 12:51 PM EST
ORLANDO, FL – 1993: Shaquille O’Neal #32 of the Orlando Magic poses with Michael Jordan #23 of the Chicago Bulls prior to playing an NBA game circ 1993 at the TD WAterhouse Centre in Orlando, Florida. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 1993 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)


Back in the day, Shaquille O’Neal was one of the best in the league. It is very hard to put into words, the sheer magnanimity of his contributions to the Los Angeles Lakers. A quality scorer, unbeatable when on defense, and the physical capabilities of an untamed beast. Shaq did it all. Under Phil Jackson, the now 49-year-old deconstructed himself into a player of ethereal beauty. But back in 2011, O’Neal made a shock claim about the legendary coach.

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‘The Zen Master’ Phil Jackson was a coaching savant during his days. Very few can say that they successfully managed the likes of Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal. He won as many as 11 rings as a coach, including three-peats galore. During his peak however, Kobe wasn’t yet the offensive giant that he evolved into. Thus, MJ and Shaq were his two protegees. Although it didn’t seem like the 76-year-old had any sort of bias back then, the former center’s statements may tell us otherwise.

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NEW YORK, NY – DECEMBER 06: Shaquille O’Neal appears to promote “Toys for Tots” during the AOL BUILD Series at AOL HQ on December 6, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Donna Ward/Getty Images)

Shaquille O’Neal claimed Phil Jackson didn’t want him to outscore Michael Jordan

Both Jordan and Shaquille had some career highs under Jackson. Back in 1990, Jordan ran riot of the Cleveland Cavaliers, thumping them for a 69 point outing. Evidently enough, the coach was extremely impressed with the performance, and went on to rave about it. Ten years later, Shaquille O’Neal had the match of his life away from home. Against the Los Angeles Clippers, the powerhouse sent down basket after basket, amassing 61 points on the night.

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Birthday boy that evening, Shaq was put off by idol Kareem Abdul-Jabbar offering words of advice to Clippers players. After proving his might, O’Neal was surprisingly taken out of the game, with about five minutes left on the clock. And he had his theory regarding the reason behind it. “I see Kareem saying you gotta do this, you gotta do that, now I’m pissed. So I’m like give me the ball, I’m scoring and scoring and I get 61, I’m throwing lobs. And I was actually kinda upset at Phil because we had 5 minutes left and he took me out. I think he did that because he didn’t want me to score more than Michael [Jordan].”

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Do you agree with Shaq’s claims of Jackson’s ulterior motives? Regardless, they were two outings that will be reminisced by the generations to come. Would O’Neal have beaten the 14-time All-star’s score of 69 points? Let us know.

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Sankalp Harikrishnan

439 articles

Sankalp Harikrishnan is an NBA and Tennis writer at EssentiallySports. He aspires to pursue Sports Journalism and has represented his institution in cricket, badminton, football and table tennis. Sankalp idolises Roger Federer and Stephen Curry, and has an inherent love for statistics.

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