Comparing any NBA player, past or present, to Shaquille O’Neal is a dangerous game. There’s never truly been anyone quite like him, a man of his size and strength combined with the speed and body control of a much smaller player.
It’s specifically hard to compare anyone currently playing in the NBA to Shaq, because the game is so different and pure big men who park themselves and dominate in the paint simply don’t exist anymore, and the ones that do (cough* Dwight Howard* cough) never lived up to Shaq’s standards.
Pau Gasol landed in Milwaukee at the trade deadline, and in the short time he’s been around Giannis Antetokoumpo, he’s done what’s long been considered blasphemous. But in an article for The Players’ Tribune, Gasol says that Antetokoumpo is the only player he’s ever seen that deserves a comparison to young Shaq.
He wrote about Giannis in an article that was published on Thursday that explains why Gasol thinks Antetokounmpo should be the league’s MVP.
But for a moment, I want you to think of young Shaq. Do you remember Shaq, when he was at LSU? Do you remember Shaq in his first few years with the Magic? Can you think of another player since with that size, with that agility? Who dunks harder and more often? To me, the list is one player long — it’s my Greek teammate.
Gasol compares the numbers Shaq put up during the 1996-97 season to Antetokounmpo’s year in Milwaukee, and the numbers are staggeringly similar. Gasol says the numbers don’t tell “the whole truth” but says the way Giannis plays mirrors Shaq so similarly.
The way young Shaq ran the fast break, finished with thundering dunks, defended the rim … I see some of the same qualities in Giannis. Here’s an example. It’s very specific, but I think it says a lot. When you watch video of young Shaq contesting dunks at the rim, you will see similar defensive instincts in Giannis. Both guys go for the block every time.
Gasol, who goes to say he sees pieces of Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and himself in Antetokounmpo, believes the Greek Freak should be the MVP of the league. But the comparison to Orlando Magic era Shaq is a fascinating one, and a testament to just how unstoppable Antetokounmpo has become.