Shaq: MJ the ‘greatest,’ but his Lakers would have beaten icon’s Bulls
Michael Jordan has become an engaging topic of conversation of late amid the NBA’ s ongoing hiatus due to the upcoming, eagerly anticipated ESPN documentary about his final season with the Chicago Bulls, “The Last Dance.”
Recently getting in on the chatter surrounding His Airness was fellow Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, who stated that while MJ is “definitely the greatest player” in NBA history, his Los Angeles Lakers team would have “easily” handled Jordan’s Chicago Bulls squad.
During an appearance Wednesday on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” — one filmed remotely from the host’s home, of course — O’Neal explained how he was “terrified” of being on the same court as Jordan, at least initially.
“Once I realized he was human,” Shaq said of MJ, “… once I realized I’m not as good as him but I’m close, I kind of calmed down.”
What made O’Neal’s high praise of Jordan of particular interest was its timing, as the current NBA on TNT analyst just had made the case that MJ’s Bulls would have had stood little chance against his Lakers team, a squad that won three titles with him and Kobe Bryant leading the way.
.@arielhelwani asks @SHAQ if the three-peat Lakers would beat MJ’s Bulls in both team's primes.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 16, 2020
Shaq: "Of course. Yes. Easily." pic.twitter.com/w5DL2hGGRT
“Cause I would’ve killed Luc Longley, Bill Wennington, [Bill] Cartwright,” O’Neal explained. “The factor is me and my free-throw shooting.”
Interestingly enough, such a hypothetical showdown would have featured the Zen Master himself, Phil Jackson, coaching both teams.
“So he would’ve tried the hack-a-Shaq thing,” O’Neal said when asked how Jackson would try to stop him. “I still would average like 28, 29, but the key would’ve been free throws. With me, it’s always 50-50. If I would’ve been on, we win. If I would’ve been off, we lose.”
Pitting players, not to mention teams, from different eras obviously is nothing more than a trivial, academic exercise, which even Jordan himself has pointed out. No definitive conclusion can ever be reached due to the respective eras’ differing styles of play, different rules, the list goes on and on.
While purely subjective, these kind of debates will obviously continue, as they invariably inspire spirited, but unwinnable, debates.