AUBURN HILLS, UNITED STATES: Shaquille O’Neal of the Los Angeles Lakers dunks during the second half of game four of the NBA Finals 13 June, 2004 at The Palace in Auburn Hills, MI. The Pistons won the game 88-80 to lead the best-of-seven game series 3-1. AFP PHOTO/Jeff HAYNES (Photo credit should read JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images)
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The best dunks from the career of NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal.
In honor of the Big Aristotle’s enshrinement into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, as part of the class of 2016, let us wax poetic on Shaquille O’Neal’s legacy by looking back at what he did best.
Sure, you can compile a list of roughly 100 great Shaq dunks since throw-downs made up the bulk of his scoring in the NBA.
Here are five of the very best, showcasing his uncanny combo of power and athleticism. Also shown are just some of the victims that helplessly fell prey to becoming Shaq posters.
Shaq is known for two backboard incidents during his rookie season, both unique in their own way. Against the Suns, a put-back dunk by Shaq caused the backboard to very slowly collapse. It eased into the ground like an old man into a nice warm bath, as George Costanza would say.
The more memorable of the two came against the Sixers, when Shaq dunked so ferociously he literally broke the backboard off its hinges, causing the shot clock to crash on his head for good measure. Shaq’s antics (intentional or not) caused the NBA to reinforce its backboards following the 1992-93 season and also penalized players with a technical foul for any future incidents.
Many a tall white guy were on the receiving end of a Shaq Attack. Just ask Shawn Bradley, who helplessly tried to defend Shaq on this fast break. (Lesson learned: If you were a lanky seven-footer and not built like a Mack truck, Shaq was going to run you over.)
But in the pantheon of Shaq dunking on non-athletic tall white guys, the one against poor Chris Dudley of the Knicks takes the cake. The incident occurred on April 2, 2000, just a few months before Shaq would go on to win his first NBA title.
After Kobe drops him a pass, Shaq posts up on Dudley, puts a spin move on the Yale grad, and then unleashes a vicious, rim-rattling, two-handed slam.
And to add insult to insult (for both Dudley and countless, suffering Knicks fans) the Big Diesel then pushes him to the ground, which was not appreciated on Dudley’s part whatsoever. So much so, that Dudley retaliated by hurling the ball at Shaq’s backside and dropping an F-bomb, as to ask Shaq, “Really?”
Alas, Shaq didn’t just dunk on the weaker opponents of his generation. The Big Cactus has been a thorn in the sides of many legendary NBA big men, with victims includingDavid Robinson,Hakeem Olajuwonand, yes, even Dikembe Mutombo. This needs to be repeated for the youngsters out there: During his prime, nobody could stop Shaq.
But from all his contemporaries, it feels like Shaq had the most fun playing against (and dunking on) fellow 1992 draftee Alonzo Mourning. The two had many a heated battle after they broke into the league as the top two picks, as Mourning did his best to out-muscle the noticeably bigger and stronger Shaq Diesel.
In this particular match-up between the Magic and Hornets during the 1994-95 season, Shaq seems hell-bent on giving Zo a hard time via two dehumanizing dunks. How they eventually became teammates after this massacre is still a mystery.
Sometimes one bad moment can define your career. Just ask Bill Buckner or Paula Deen. You could work hard and build towards great success in your field, but, in the end, you’ll always be remembered for that one shining low point.
Kelvin Cato was not known for having a successful NBA career, which makes the next entry on this list all the more painful. (If you still haven’t caught on to the point of this exercise, he was on the receiving end of a thunderous Shaq slam.)
Cato didn’t do anything particularly wrong on April 24, 2008, aside from showing up to play basketball that day. If he hadn’t, Cato wouldn’t have been on the receiving end of what many call the best Shaq dunk ever.
In a playoff game against the Portland Trailblazers, the Big Daddy comes racing down the court, grabs a high lob pass from roughly the free throw line and throws down a wicked one-handed slam on Cato. It is safe to say the ten-year veteran would have been better off admiring the dunk from afar.
Sometimes the best dunk doesn’t have to literally be the best dunk, just the most memorable one. A dunk that didn’t just rock the rim (this one did), but also signified a major turning point in what was once considered an underachieving career.
Such is the case for number one on this list. Again, the receiving team is the Portland Trailblazers, but this time around the stakes was a little bit higher – Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals.
After the Lakers found themselves down 71-58 heading into the fourth quarter, the team needed to mount a major comeback to avoid another year of playoff heartbreak, as Shaq was in year four of his Lakers career and desperate for his first title.
The Lakers took over the game in the fourth, outscoring the Blazers 31-13, the exclamation point coming via the signature play from one of the NBA’s greatest duos. Kobe throwing the alley up to Shaq. The call from Bob Costas and Shaq’s signature pointing afterward signified it – Shaqmania had arrived in Los Angeles.