Shaquille O’Neal is one of the best players ever to play in the NBA, and he dominated at the center position. O’Neal won multiple championships throughout his career and received many individual awards.
There was one player that O’Neal wanted to play with, and that was Hall of Fame player Allen Iverson. The two matched up in the 2001 NBA finals, and O’Neal always respected Iverson’s game.
A look at the 2001 NBA finals
Going into the 2000-01 season, the Los Angeles Lakers came into the season wanted to defend its NBA title. Throughout the season, the Lakers continued to dominate. The Lakers finished with a regular-season record of 56-26. O’Neal led the team in scoring and rebounding averaging 28.7 points and 12.7 rebounds per game.
The Lakers went into the playoffs and took care of business in the Western Conference. O’Neal and the Lakers did not lose a game leading up to the NBA finals. The Lakers were expected to make it to the finals, and the team did not disappoint. Going into the 2001 NBA finals, the Lakers took on the Philadelphia 76ers.
The 76ers had the best player in the league that season in Allen Iverson. He won the NBA MVP award, and he averaged 31.1 points, 4.6 assists, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.5 steals. Iverson took the league by storm, and he carried the 76ers to the finals. It was not easy, but Iverson played his best during the finals even though the Lakers defeated the 76ers 4-1. Iverson showed his toughness and willingness to fight no matter what the circumstances were. The Hall of Fame guard averaged 35.6 points, which led all players in the finals. Iverson did all that he could, but it wasn’t enough against a stacked Lakers team.
Shaquille O’Neal wanted to play with Allen Iverson
O’Neal quickly took notice of Iverson’s game and how his size did not stop him from being one of the best in the history of the game. The two were inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016, and O’Neal believed that Iverson would have won the championship in 2001 if they played another team.
In an NBC sports article, O’Neal said that he thinks he and Iverson would have won multiple titles together if they were on the same team, and O’Neal said that Iverson was the one player, he would have liked to have been teammates with during his career. “It’s OK to have a one-two punch, but when you’ve got a one-two punch that can knock you out with either hand. … If there was one guy I would have liked to have played with, it definitely would have been A.I,” O’Neal said in the article.
Two great NBA careers
Looking at O’Neal’s and Iverson’s numbers, there’s no question as to why they were inducted into the Hall of Fame. Both players are considered to be the best at their positions, and they worked hard to get to where they were. It would have been a sight to see watching Iverson and O’Neal play together.
Both players played for multiple teams throughout their careers, and they continued to play at a high-level. O’Neal and Iverson are two players that made an impact on the NBA, and they continue to do so.