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“He’s the only guy I couldn’t intimidate” - Shaquille O’Neal reveals the only player in the league he couldn’t figure out

By Nicole Ganglani,


The Los Angeles Lakers' legendary big man Shaquille O’Neal will always be known as one of — if not — the most dominant center of all time. During his prime, when he averaged 27.8 points and 11.5 rebounds a game en route to three straight championships, there was no answer for the Diesel. However, that doesn’t mean Shaq had an answer for every single opponent he faced. While O’Neal did dominate most of his matchups during his prime, he admits that the only player he never figured out was the one and only Hakeem Olajuwon.

“At the 5 spot, Imma go Hakeem Olajuwon. I know I was coming in as an emerging or already emerged. He's the only guy I couldn't figure out. He's the only guy I couldn't intimidate,” O’Neal said in a vintage NBA “Open Court” segment.

Hakeem vs Shaq

There’s a reason why O’Neal looked up to Olajuwon throughout his career. When the two big men went head-to-head, Shaq had yet to reach his prime but already solidified himself as a perennial big man during their battles. Still, O’Neal feels that he never figured out Hakeem despite averaging 22.1 points on 54.4 percent shooting, 12.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 0.9 steals, and 1.8 blocks in their 20 regular season matchups against each other.

“ … The Georgetown boys, we know they're going to fake left and go right. Rik Smits used to kill me earlier on too. They'd go left and ahh, go ahead, Alonzo (Mourning). Get that dumbass runner off."

Despite averaging decent numbers against Olajuwon, maybe the reason why O’Neal feels as if he never figured him out was due to when they both squared up against each other in the Playoffs. Both big men went up against each other in eight Playoff games, and Hawkeen won five of those. The most notable matchup happened in 1995 when Olajuwon outscored a young O’Neal 32.8 points per game compared to Shaq’s 28.0, which led to a sweep.

Still, Shaq won more championships

Olajuwon may have been O’Neal’s kryptonite at the start of his career, but ultimately, Shaq finished his tenure in the NBA with more championships. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t get to witness both square up against each other during their prime because Olajuwon would’ve surely been one of — if not — Shaq’s strongest competitor while he was a Laker.

At the end of the day, though, it was nice to see O’Neal eventually carry the torch and blaze his own trail after getting beat by the opponent he never really figured out.

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