Shaquille O’ Neal retired leaving a huge – no pun intended – hole in the NBA.
O’ Neal always had a certain fondness for San Antonio mainly because he went to high school at Cole. As his NBA career progressed, it became more of a love-hate relationship with the city and the San Antonio Spurs. He respected and idolized David Robinson and yet made up a reason to start a rivalry with him.
During the peak of his career, he ran in to Tim Duncan. Duncan would become his chief rival if he and Kobe could’ve gotten past their childish differences. In fact, you could argue that Duncan still was his biggest rival because he and Kobe never played each other in a game that mattered. With that in mind, let’s roll through the five most memorable moments involving Shaq and the Spurs.
Let’s just get it out of the way before we all throw up. If you’ll remember, before .4, Duncan made the most improbable of shots over Shaq’s out stretched arms. A friend of my brother’s, who is a Lakers fan so he doesn’t deserved to be named said he thought it was the best defense Shaq has ever played. Then Derek Fisher happened. Afterwards, Shaq twisted that dagger by saying “One lucky shot deserves another”. Thanks for that, jerk. I was in L.A. last year and saw that quote on a shirt. If the person wearing it wasn’t 12 years old, we may have had words. While we’re here, why couldn’t the San Antonio timekeeper have started the clock just a smidgen early. That’s on you, San Antonio’s version of Steve Bartman.
#4: Shaq Meets Mr. Robinson
Like I said earlier, Shaq didn’t have a bigger rival early on (at least in his mind) than David Robinson. With that in mind I submit to you these highlights. When Shaq came in to the league, there’s was no more difficult matchup for Shaq than the Admiral. The 90’s crop of centers kind of remind me of the late 60’s/early 70’s group of heavyweight boxers. Olajuwon was like Ali because he was the best, Robinson like Smoking Joe because he was almost… ALMOST as good as Olajuwon and Shaq was like Foreman because he was younger, bigger and stronger than the other too, but not entirely ready (I realize the parallels aren’t exact, but the point is, the 90’s were a golden era for centers in the NBA). Patrick Ewing was the overrated guy that never actually won a big game. Also, notice in the clip during that J.R. Reid was once a half decent basketball player. It was for like half a season, but it happened.
#3: Shaq Eats Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood
1996. San Antonio. NBA All-Star Game. Grant Hill starts the break, Shaq finishes, Robinson makes the mistake of trying to play defense during an All-Star game and I’ll let the video tell the rest.
#2: Duncan Initiates Shaqtus
I don’t think Duncan has tortured another franchise anymore than the Suns. Well, during the 2008 playoffs after Shaq had been traded to the Suns, Duncan initiated Shaq as a Sun officially. You know the shot, you love the shot. I was supposed to be at this game, but we won’t get in to that. Anyways, Shaq left Duncan open at the 3-point line to cover Manu even though a 2 would’ve been pointless with so little time left. The Suns lack of D infects everyone it seems (it even rubbed off on the Spurs this season). I’ll never forget this shot. Ever.
In 6 seasons, the Spurs and Lakers played each other 5 times in the playoffs. First, in 1999 Shaq and the Lakers weren’t ready. And by that I mean Del Harris was coaching and Kobe couldn’t grow chin pubes yet. Duncan hurt his knee at the end of the 2000 regular season and the Spurs wisely didn’t rush him back. They got bounced by Phoenix in the first round. The next two seasons can best be described by this play. But the next season something changed. Shaq slowed down, Duncan became the best player in the world, the Spurs got the right role players, the Lakers began hating each other. Robinson retired after winning a title on Father’s Day. So he finished 2-2 against Shaq in the playoffs lifetime. Duncan, thanks to 2008, will finish his career 3-3 against Shaq in the playoffs. Oh one more thing about the Spurs beating the Lakers in 2003… we got to see this:
So there you have it. Some fond memories of Shaq versus the Spurs. What about you Spurs fans? Got any favorite Shaq moments against the Spurs?