‘Soft’: Shaquille O’Neal Takes a Shot at Present-Day Center Players

Published 09/18/2021, 11:33 PM EDT
–Lakers Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant celebrate after defeating the 76ers in Game 4 of the NBA Finals in Philadelphia Wednesday June 13, 2001. (Photo by Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)


The NBA has seen a sea change over the decades. The way Steph Curry is changing the present-day game, Shaquille O’Neal did in the 90s and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the 70s. So one can expect a paradigm shift every two decades.

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Specifically discussing the 90s, also popular as the Jordan era, the league used to be very physical. The big guys dominated and it was more and more about ruling the paint. So almost 10 years into his retirement, Shaq has something to reflect back on and churn out a message for the more recent centers.

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Shaquille O’Neal and his tough words of truth for big men

In an interview with Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson, Shaquille O’Neal compared his days with new-age hooping. Just as the 36-YO sportswriter told Shaq how Ray Allen thinks the big men are coming back, the latter had some hard reflections. 

The 4x NBA Champion neglected the evolution of the game and expressed, “Us older big guys don’t look at it as evolving. We look at it as soft b/c guys don’t want to get down there & bang.”

Shaq comes from the era when Karl Malone won the MVP, Charles Barkley gave MJ a tough time, Davis Robinson fought physical, floor general John Stockton upped the value of playmaking, and Gary Payton nailed the defense. So it’s naturally obvious that Shaq sees some softness in the current way of playing.

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What changed between then and now?

Back in the days, a guy at position five would bring the ball up and make efficient scoring. They’d come cruising into the paint and look for drawing fouls to grab those crucial free throws. It was brutal and the teams like the Pistons were the ones that made it so very real.

Consider Shaq’s game as a quintessential example. The man would always have a double or triple team on him whenever he was anywhere near the glass. And yet, the 7-footer giant would convert a postup with a turn-around jumper. He was so dominant that he’d often grab his own rebounds and smash a dunk with other centers staring in helplessness.

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Charles Barkley, Reggie Miller and Shaquille O’Neal attend the 2016 ESPYS at Microsoft Theater on July 13, in LA, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images)

That was Shaq putting everyone on the BBQ and grilling them to a slow death. No wonder he averaged close to a 30-point double-double in the Lakers’ 1999-00 championship season and also recorded 3 bpg. 

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Looks like Karl Anthony-Towns, Kristaps Porzingis, Joel Embiid, Moses Brown, Anthony Davis, and others still have a long way to go. But yes, the new-age centers can shoot a three and if only they can also get as dominant as Shaq, maybe Ray Allen gets it right.

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What do you have to say about this debate? Help us know in the comments section below.

Watch this story – Shaquille O’Neal’s Most Heated Face-offs Against Dennis Rodman

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Sourabh Singh

1705 articles

Sourabh Singh is an NBA sports analyst for EssentiallySports, who has been working with the site since May 2020. Prior to this, he functioned as Managing Editor at WittyFeed, followed by a stint at Decathlon. The Sports Management graduate leads an active lifestyle, veering to the mountains for off-trail adventures.

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