In 2009, a historic event took place. Besides the Los Angeles Lakers defeating the Magic to win the NBA championship, there was something else. Shaquille O’Neal, who was playing with the Cleveland Cavaliers at that time, starred in a reality TV show called Shaq Vs.
ABC network aired the series, which saw Shaq taking on different athletes from various sports. The main base of the show was to prove that Shaq is the greatest athlete ever. In order to do it, he challenged athletes in their respective sport. Shaq had the guts to try out a different sport and take on the best in that field.
The first season of the show contains five episodes, and the finale is something that can never be forgotten. It is one of the most entertaining episodes, where we can see the Big Diesel giving it his best against a mighty Olympian.
The fifth and final episode of Shaq Vs. saw the four-time champion compete against the most decorated Olympian ever. Isn’t it brave of Shaq to try his hand at swimming, that too challenging Michael Phelps?
By 2009, Phelps had set and smashed several world records on his own and it was time to see if a 7-foot-1 basketball star could defeat him in his own sport. (With several handicap rules, of course.)
A total of three races were planned out, and there was a bet in place. The loser had to do something that the winner decides. Here is how the competition unfolded.
As Phelps was a multiple gold medal-winning Olympian and Shaq was a basketball icon, they had to even the playing field. Swimming was Phelps’ absolute strength. So, there were some rules in place for each race.
The first race was a freestyle event where Shaquille O’Neal had to swim 25 yards, while his opponent had to cover 50 yards with a five-second head-start. So Shaq had to complete half a lap, while Phelps had to cover 50% more than the 15-time NBA All-Star.
They both started at opposite points to ensure that the finish would be on the same end of the pool. Surprisingly, even with a five-second head-start, Phelps could not match up with the big man and lost to him in the first race.
Shaq’s time of 23.14 bettered Phelps’ 50-yard freestyle time of 24.03. Thus, the NBA star drew first blood by winning the race. But the competition didn’t end there.
Shaquille O’Neal: 1
Michael Phelps: 0
A relay event in swimming generally consists of four athletes completing 100 or 200 meters together. For the second challenge, a 200 medley was called in place. Every 50 yards should contain a different stroke.
To Shaq’s advantage, he had three Olympics female swimmers in his team, while Phelps had to cover 200 meters all by himself. The race began, and the team placed Shaq as the anchor, to enjoy the lead presented by the female swimmers.
And so, Phelps gave away the lead to the first three swimmers and went behind by a considerable margin. As the third swimmer completed her fifty yards, Shaq in his black swimsuit dove into the pool, hoping to achieve a 2-0 victory against Phelps.
But you know what they say. Never underestimate the power of a champion. Shaq had a long lead when he began, but Phelps effortlessly soared from behind to take the victory. A disappointed Shaq threw his swimming goggles after finding out that he lost by less than 2 seconds.
Shaquille O’Neal: 1
Michael Phelps: 1
Both athletes were prepared to battle it out in the final race. In a winner takes all contest, Shaq had to cover 50 yards in yet another freestyle race whereas Phelps had to cover 75. The extra 25 yards is the advantage Shaq got.
However, it didn’t matter in front of Phelps. He glided through the water to register the victory and earn the honors. But this race seemed to be the most intense one. We almost had a photo finish as Phelps raced back from behind to get the win. Shaq clocked a time of 38.76 compared to Phelps’ winning time of 38.59.
Shaquille O’Neal: 1
Michael Phelps: 2
A small margin cost Shaq his victory that led to a comprehensive loss. As a result, he had to sport a pink swimming cap and engage in synchronized swimming with the group. With the lost challenge against Phelps, Shaq lost all the five challenges that he posed in the series.
Nevertheless, the NBA star proved to be a great sport and showcased his talent at each one of them.
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