“You’re on the Same Court with God!”: Shaquille O’Neal Reveals He Was Terrified of Michael Jordan

Published 04/16/2020, 6:02 AM EDT

Shaquille O’Neal has sparked a debate among NBA fans after making a groundless claim in a video chat with ESPN’s Ariel Helwani.

O’Neal was a part of the Los Angeles Lakers team that won three straight NBA titles from 2000 to 2002. The Hall of Famer claimed that his team would have “easily” beaten Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls from the 90s.

Now, before breaking it down, the Bulls and Jordan won six titles in eight years and are right up there among the greatest dynasties in the NBA. 


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It is highly questionable if the Lakers in their prime would have “easily” beaten the Bulls in their mighty years ruling the NBA.

Shaquille O’Neal and the Lakers versus Michael Jordan and the Bulls

The Lakers with Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant achieved the three-peat once. Michael Jordan and the Bulls achieved it twice. But the debate just can’t end right here. 

Shaq being a center said his free-throwing would be the main factor deciding the outcome of the tie. “Cause I would’ve killed Luc Longley, Bill Wennington, [Bill] Cartwright,” he also added. 

O’Neal also wondered which team Phil Jackson would root for, considering he was the coach of both sides that won historic three-peats. Helwani responded by saying that he would have picked the Bulls since he coached them first. 

“So he would’ve tried the Hack-a-Shaq thing,” O’Neal replied. “I still would average like 28, 29, but the key would’ve been free throws. With me, it’s always 50-50. If I would’ve been on, we win. If I would’ve been off, we lose.”

Although people might deem O’Neal’s words as preposterous, the Orlando Magic team powered by Shaq breezed past the Chicago Bulls in the 1994-95 Eastern Conference semi-finals. He averaged 24.3 points, 13.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.0 steals per game. O’Neal took the Magic to victory in six games. 

Now the counter-argument from the Bulls fans would be that Jordan had just come back from his retirement and he wasn’t the same player from the early ’90s. However, the following year Jordan led the Bulls to the NBA title. Then followed two back-to-back championships that completed their second three-peat in eight years.

During the chat, O’Neal also revealed that when he joined the league, he was terrified of Michael Jordan. Speaking about watching Jordan as a kid he said:

“As a kid it’s like you’re watching a God. Now you’re on the same court with God. All the stuff he was doing when I was a kid, it is true. He can fly, he can bump you in the air and still be in the air when you come down, laying it up,” he further added.

O’Neal also mentioned how the fans would be up on their feet waiting for Jordan to dunk when he stole the ball from an opponent. He also revealed that some players don’t quite match out from television to watching them on the court, but Jordan was just perfect, according to him.

Which team was better in their prime?

It is highly debatable. The Chicago Bulls dominated the NBA and Jordan and his team set a new benchmark with their achievements. Their era spread the game on a much more global basis, giving basketball a new recognition. 

The dynamic duo of Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan toyed with their opponents. In the 1995-96 season, the Bulls set an incredible record of 72-10 in the regular season. Jordan averaged 30.4 points per game and won his fourth MVP award.

On the other hand, the Lakers went 15-1 in the 2001 NBA playoffs. O’Neal speaking to USA Today said, “We would’ve gone 16-0 but A.I. [Allen Iverson] went off on us and stepped over Ty Lüe.” 


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The Lakers are the latest team to achieve the three-peat in the NBA. No other team has managed to do it since. And their conquest is often overlooked when people bring up the most memorable moments in the NBA. 


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The Warriors came close to achieving the three-peat, but lost to the Toronto Raptors in 2019 after winning back-to-back championships in 2017 and 2018.

If the two great teams really were to face-off, who would you put the money on? The 2000s Lakers led by Kobe and Shaq or the 90s Bulls powered by the Jumpman and Scottie Pippen?



Arjun Athreya

2181 articles

Arjun Athreya is a senior writer at Essentially Sports and has been contributing since early 2020. Having developed an avid interest in sports at an early age, he pursued a Journalism degree and graduated from Madras Christian College. Arjun manages the Golf division and its content, and primarily covers news pertaining to the NBA as well.