Shaquille O’Neal was immortalized on Friday in Los Angeles as a 1,900 pound statue of his signature Lakers dunk was unveiled outside of Staples Center. Among those on-hand to honor Shaq was his former teammate and one time nemesis Kobe Bryant, as the two appeared to have a ton of fun together in their reunion.
The statue will be a permanent reminder of Shaq’s physical dominance over the league, something that can be sometimes forgotten over time. He wasn’t just a behemoth in the paint, he was terrifyingly skilled with the ball in his hands. He had the footwork and ball-handling skills of a guard, with an unmatched size and strength. The NBA released a mixtape of Shaq’s best plays as a member of the Lakers on Friday, and it is still stunning to see how good he was in his prime, destroying all competition.
Just imagine trying to guard Shaq. He could face you up and drive by you, or simply back you down until you were under the hoop and turn around and dunk on your head. The abuse he gave centers in the NBA was incredible, and everything he did was so powerful. He dunked with a ferocious tenacity and every time he blocked someone it’s like he was trying to pop the basketball.
Prime Shaq was a kind of dominant force that we’d never seen before and will never see again in the NBA. As we grow further and further removed from his career and he’s known more for beefing with JaVale McGee, Charles Barkley and others, let’s try to remember that there’s a reason he has such high standards for big man play, because he set them.