Like most NBA players, Shaquille O’Neal is pretty proud of his resume. If you’ve ever seen the big man on Inside the NBA, then you’ll know that he has no problem throwing his championship rings around, especially when he’s butting heads with Charles Barkley. Through that lens, you might think the Diesel believes he’s the best big man ever to hit the hardwood, right?
Shaq, for all his confidence, has a strong understanding and respect for NBA history. During a recent appearance on The Rich Eisen Show, he even admitted that he has no problem placing himself outside of the top three when it comes to all-time big men.
Shaq knows that he can’t touch Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, or Wilt Chamberlain
Professional athletes, on the whole, have to be supremely confident in their own abilities. While Shaquille O’Neal wasn’t exactly doubting himself when he took the court, he does have a sense of where he fits in NBA history.
“You know, I get tickled when people say, ‘Rate the best big men in the game,'” Shaq told Rich Eisen. “I will never be as good as the top three. I’m close, will never be as good. Bill [Russell] has 11 championships. Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] has six. Wilt [Chamberlain] was the most dominant player ever.”
While admitting you’re no better than fourth-best is probably counter-intuitive for most athletes, O’Neal isn’t too upset. If anything, he’s glad to even be in the same conversation as those all-time greats.
“I’m happy with the fact that I can be mentioned in the same breath,” he continued. “Because you know why I’m happy? Because at 19 years old, a drill sergeant took me on a basketball court and said, ‘You can be exactly like those three guys.’ And I believed him, and I listened to him. And it’s here. So it doesn’t matter to me, ‘Oh, Shaq, you’re the best big man ever.’ As long as I’m mentioned with those guys, trust me, I’m more than happy. And Bill Russell, Wilt, and Kareem, greatest big guys ever in the history. Will never be anybody as close to them.”
Even if you disagree with the exact hierarchy of Shaq’s ranking, it’s tough to take too much issue with his overall sentiments. If nothing else, it’s refreshing to hear a modern athlete, albeit a retired one, take a step back and say that he is supremely talented and better than all comers.
Even Shaquille O’Neal, for all of his sheer size and talent, was standing on the shoulders of giants. He clearly understands that reality.