Shaquille O’Neal remains recognized as one of the league’s most dominant players. O’Neal physically imposed his will against opponents that left them without an answer defensively. However, the Hall of Famer revealed that little-known NBA big man Dino Radja gave him some significant problems on the court.
Shaquille O’Neal’s legendary NBA career
After dominating the collegiate scene at LSU, O’Neal quickly became an NBA star.
His sheer size and strength made him an extremely imposing matchup. O’Neal dominated the league for several years, where he earned recognition as arguably the game’s most physically dominant talent.
It helped him capture four NBA titles and three NBA Finals MVP awards, receive 15 All-Star Game selections and 14 All-NBA selections, and garner a regular-season MVP award. O’Neal also received a first-ballot Hall of Fame induction while his jersey is retired with the Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, and Orlando Magic.
Despite his physical dominance, O’Neal revealed he experienced issues playing against a little-known NBA player.
Shaquille O’Neal sang the praises of a little-known NBA player with Hall of Fame credentials who gave him fits
O’Neal spent nearly two decades in the league, where he had numerous high-profile matchups against the game’s greatest frontcourt talents.
The four-time NBA champion experienced many tough battles, but a few names on his list may come as a surprise. During an episode of The Big Podcast With Shaq in December 2020, O’Neal revealed that former Boston Celtics big man Dino Radja gave him fits on the court.
“I know a lot of tough white boys,” O’Neal remarked. “There was a dude from Boston named Dino Radja.”
The name doesn’t exactly pop off the page as Radja was productive in his four-year stint in the league with Boston. He averaged 16.7 points and 8.4 rebounds on 49.7% shooting from the floor. He’s best recognized for his dominance overseas in Europe.
Radja was named one of FIBA’s 50 greatest players and one of the 50 Greatest Euroleague Contributors. All that earned him an induction in the Basketball Hall of Fame as part of the 2018 class.
Radja briefly crossed paths with O’Neal, as they faced each other 12 times, including a 1995 playoff series. According to Basketball Network, O’Neal averaged 30.3 points and 11.8 rebounds on 62.7% shooting against him. Meanwhile, Radja put up 21.8 points and 8.0 rebounds on 54.1% shooting from the floor.
However, the former Magic star’s strong remarks likely stem from his memory playing Radja in the 1994-95 campaign. In five regular-season games, the Croatian native averaged 27.2 points and 9.0 rebounds on 56.6% shooting from the floor. O’Neal more than held his own, putting up 27.4 points and 9.0 rebounds on 65.5% shooting from the field.
Radja’s name may not hold a strong appeal, but he gave a young O’Neal defensive problems.
Bryant “Big Country” Reeves also gave the Hall of Famer headaches
Radja isn’t the only non-high-profile O’Neal recognized as stiff competition.
The Hall of Fame big man also pointed out that former then-Vancouver Grizzlies center Bryant “Big Country” Reeves presented challenging problems.
“Big Country would be 15 feet away and I would have to rotate back,” O’Neal said during an episode of NBA TV’s Open Court. “He had the ugliest, Duckworth one-handed jumper. He’d shoot it and it would always go in. So at halftime, I’m looking at the stats: Shaq 15 [points], Big Country 26.”
In 13 career matchups, O’Neal’s teams dominated Reeves with a 12-1 record. He also held the edge in the head-to-head numbers as he averaged 27.1 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks. Meanwhile, Reeves averaged 11.2 points and 8.3 rebounds.
He did experience some strong moments against O’Neal and the Los Angeles Lakers. It featured a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds in January 1997 and a 24-point outing in March 1998. O’Neal may have pumped up Reeves’ numbers, but the respect factor is certainly there.