Shaquille O’Neal Celebrated His Homecoming With a Triple-Double Never Before Seen in NBA History: ‘I Guess I Played OK’
Shaquille O’Neal was the definition of “dominance.” Ever since entering the league with the Orlando Magic in 1992, O’Neal used his size, strength, and impressive athleticism to become one of the NBA’s all-time great centers. One of Shaq’s greatest performances came in 1993, when the big man was back home and ready to put on a show.
Shaquille O’Neal became an impact player immediately
O’Neal was a rare prospect coming out of LSU. At 7-foot-1, he was not only bigger than nearly everyone on the court, but also quicker than anyone else at his position. He was the perfect fit for the Magic, a three-year-old franchise that had done nothing but lose.
Even with his mediocre first career game, one in which he fouled out after recording 12 points and eight turnovers, it didn’t take long for the greatness to arrive. In his third contest, Shaq scored 35 points to go with 13 rebounds. The next game, he scored 31 and grabbed 21 boards. In 81 games, the 21-year-old had just 13 games where he didn’t record a double-double. By season’s end, he finished with averages of 23.4 points and 13.9 rebounds, taking home Rookie of the Year honors.
For year two, Shaq took his game to a whole new level. And perhaps no game displayed that better than his legendary performance against the New Jersey Nets.
Shaq’s historic triple-double
On November 20, 1993, the Magic visited the Nets in East Rutherford, New Jersey, an area O’Neal was very familiar with. The big man was born and raised in nearby Newark before moving due to his stepfather’s military career. Orlando was reeling heading in, having lost four of its last five games. But Shaq was not going to let the losing continue.
O’Neal was dominant from the get-go, finishing with 24 points on 12-of-19 shooting. But where he really shined was near the basket, pulling down 28 rebounds and collecting 15 blocks, two shy of the NBA record 17 set by Elmore Smith in 1973.
With his 24/28/15 triple-double, O’Neal became the fourth player in NBA history to score 20 points, secure 20 rebounds, and earn 10 blocks in a game, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elvin Hayes, and Hakeem Olajuwon. However, Shaq had more rebounds and blocks than all three Hall of Famers, doing so in just 36 minutes of action. Orlando would go on to win the game 87-85.
“I guess I played OK,” O’Neal said after the game, per NBA.com. “It’s hard to play from city to city, where it’s 40 degrees in one and 80 degrees in the next, but you keep playing. I knew I had about 7 or 8 blocks, but I didn’t know I had 15. If we had lost, my performance wouldn’t have meant anything.”
Shaquille O’Neal never duplicated that stat line
Over 19 seasons, O’Neal had many more epic games. His 61-point, 23-rebound game against the LA Clippers was his career-best scoring night, with two other outings of 50 points or more close by. But the Hall of Fame center never matched the number of rebounds or blocks he had that November evening in East Rutherford.
The Big Diesel never came close to a 20/20/10 game again. In fact, he finished his illustrious career with just one more triple-double. On April 11, 2006, a 34-year-old O’Neal had 15 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists in 28 minutes for the Miami Heat. That performance, while far from the one 13 years earlier, did see the big man setting a career-high in assists.
In the end, O’Neal had career averages of 23.7 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game. He was an MVP, a two-time scoring champion, and a four-time NBA champion. And yet, when he was only 21 years old, Shaq had a game never seen before and never again matched, by him or anyone else in league history.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.