Shaquille O’Neal Once Made an Entire Basketball Team Consider Quitting the Sport
While he might not have had the killer instinct of a Kobe Bryant or a Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal was certainly an intimidating man to meet on the basketball court. Beyond his sheer size — Shaq could outmuscle virtually any opponent — the big man was surprisingly athletic, especially in his younger days. Facing off against the Diesel, even in the best of times, could seem like an impossible task.
On one occasion, O’Neal’s sheer size and strength even intimidated a group of players who weren’t taking the court. A high school team had come to take in a game and, upon seeing Shaq, reconsidered their collective hopes of making it to the NBA.
Think that sounds like something out of a sitcom? Well, let’s go back to the 1990s and check it out.
Shaquille O’Neal was so massive that he caused a high school basketball team to reconsider higher-level basketball
For many fans, part of the thrill of going to a live sporting event is seeing the athletes in person. Size, more often than not, doesn’t completely translate through a screen. On one occasion, a high school basketball team learned that lesson the hard way.
On March 23, Shaquille O’Neal appeared on the Fluent & Chill podcast. While the big man discussed a variety of topics, his presence inspired one of the eponymous hosts to take a walk down memory lane.
“You should know you made an entire high school basketball team question whether they should stop playing basketball,” Sports Fluent told the big man. “You were playing for Orlando. You were in Phoenix for a game against the Suns, and it was early on in your career, obviously, because you were on Orlando. And you came in, and it was either right before your shoot-around or after. And My team, my high school team, was sitting there, and you came and gave us all kind of high fives, dapped us up.”
While you might think that sounds like a dream come true for a group of high school athletes, they apparently took another impression away from the experience.
“You were wearing a 49ers jacket. It was the size of my house,” Sports Fluent continued. “And you shook our hands, and your fingers came up to like here [near the elbow] on me. I’m, like, not a small dude. I’m 6’3″, 250, so, but your hands came up to here. And we all went, ‘If that’s what players in the NBA are like, I don’t think we have a shot.'”
With all of that being said, though, Shaq can certainly be a gentle giant
While no one would ever accuse Shaquille O’Neal of being warm and fuzzy on the court, that isn’t to say the big man is mean-spirited. Despite providing that high school team with a troubling realization, the NBA legend has been known to perform “random acts of Shaqness.”
But what does that mean in practice? By and large, O’Neal is happy to flex his financial muscles to help others.
Within NBA circles, that meant things like helping Mark Madsen get a new, Association-ready wardrobe or hooking Tyronn Lue up with $20,000 during the NBA lockout. That generosity isn’t limited to fellow pros, either. Shaq has left big-time tips for servers, helped buy engagement rings, and just about anything else you can imagine.
That combines to suggest that Shaquille O’Neal is — as much as we can actually know any public figure — a pretty good guy. Just don’t let his size crush your dreams of playing in the NBA.