Revisited: "I just wanna show them that I can throw it between my legs like Jordan can do" - Shaquille O'Neal claims he can handle the ball like a guard in the lead-up to '93 All-Star game

Shaquille O
Shaquille O'Neal with the Orlando Magic in his rookie season

Shaquille O'Neal is one of the most dominant players ever seen in the NBA, and his agility combined with his brute strength made him nearly unguardable. For a long period, there was simply no answer for Shaq, as even Hall of Fame centers could not stop him in the low post.

However, O'Neal often wanted to show that he is more versatile than just a big man. He grew up playing like a guard because he idolized Michael Jordan until his father told him that he needed to be a center. Magic Johnson, with the help of a journalist, interviewed O'Neal before the 1993 All-Star game. The five-time champion asked Diesel why big men like playing guard, and O'Neal replied:

"I don't wanna play guard, but I just wanna show people that sometimes I have handle. I just wanna show them that I can throw it between my legs like Jordan can do and I can give a crossover dribble like (Tim) Hardaway can do.
"I mean, I don't wanna play guard and come up and be calling the plays. I mean, sometimes I just wanna get it, dribble it up, either give a nice look-away pass or throw it down just to let them know that, 'Hey, Shaq has a handle, too.'"


O'Neal was a starter in the All-Star game in his rookie season. He was the first rookie to be selected as an All-Star since Michael Jordan in 1985.

O'Neal, at the time, was sharing the spotlight with Jordan as the most popular player in the league. He averaged 24.0 points, 14.3 rebounds and 4.0 blocks per game leading up to All-Star weekend in 47 outings. O'Neal was named Rookie of the Year in a landslide victory, beating Alonzo Mourning 96-2 in votes.

Rookie Shaquille O'Neal loved watching Michael Jordan play

Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls against the Orlando Magic
Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls against the Orlando Magic

In the interview leading up to the 1993 All-Star game, Shaquille O'Neal was asked who he would pay to watch play and loved watching as a fan. O'Neal didn't hesitate before answering Michael Jordan. The Diesel said:

"I like watching Jordan. When I was in high school, he used to do things that you're sitting and watching and go like, "He didn't just do that!" He would jump on side of the lane, bumping you in the air, and the guy will be, like, right there and he take the ball and squeeze between and lay it off the glass, flick the wrist and it would go in."

Shaquille O'Neal added that he realized MJ was the real deal when he dropped 64 on the Magic just a few weeks before the interview. Shaq said:

"And when I'm out there playing against him, he hot 64 on us. I was like. 'This guy is for real.' So, if I was a fan, I would love to see Michael Jordan."

On Jan. 16, 1993, Jordan erupted for 64 points, but his gargantuan performance wasn't enough as the Chicago Bulls lost 128-124 in overtime. A 20-year-old O'Neal dropped 29 points on 11-fpr-18 shooting (61.1%) along with 24 rebounds and five blocks in 50 minutes.

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Edited by Joseph Schiefelbein
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