The NBA community is well aware that Shaquille O’Neal was almost of a different species. The 7′ 1”, 325 lb league star sure left his mark on the game as a player. Not only that, Shaq also made sure some changes came about to cater to his physical characteristics. However, one additional rule was legalized that gave opponents advantage over Shaq. And it led to a humorous incident.
When Gregg Popovich hacked- a- Shaquille O’Neal
The origin story of the offensive move called Hack-a-Shaq is well known around the NBA community. Don Nelson, the coach of the Dallas Mavericks, used the move back in 1997. However, it gained popularity after its results on Shaquille O’Neal came out destructive.
Once the NBA league proclaimed that players couldn’t purposely foul opposing players who didn’t have the ball in their hands during the last 2 minutes of the game. If this was done, the opposing teams would get 2 free throws and the possession of the ball.
Many teams purposely broke this rule while playing against Shaquille O’Neal, as they were well aware of his free throw game. Which was, so to speak, not there.
Once, back in 2008, when a reporter asked Gregg Popovich whether he would “Hack-a-Shaq” on the first possession of the game as a joke, Popovich affirmed. He said,
“You know, that’s not a bad idea now that I think about it.”
Et voilà, he did it.
5 seconds into the matchup between the San Antonio Spurs and the Phoenix Suns, Shaq, was hacked. After winning the tip, former Suns player Michael Finley wrapped his arms around O’Neal. This made sure the play stopped five seconds into the game.
Seems like Shaq knew what was happening. He immediately looked over at Popovich and received two thumbs-up from him while they shared a laugh.
Not a lot of time before that, Shaq had called the Spurs ‘cowards’ the previous season for using the hack-a-Shaq on him. So this seemed to be Popovich’s response to Shaq, to show that he stood by his game plan.