Throughout his entire career, there wasn’t a way to stop Shaquille O’Neal, arguably the most dominant in the history of the game.
You could, however, try and take him out of the game for a while and mess up with his rhythm by making the most of his Achilles heel: his free-throw shooting.
Teams intentionally fouled Shaq to send him to the line and force them to beat them from there. That way, they could get the ball back without the clock running out and climb back from big deficits or prevent his team from coming back into the game.
Shaq was clearly frustrated with the strategy, so he went on to complain to David Stern, the former NBA commissioner who recently passed away, as he revealed during an exclusive interview with ESPN:
“The thing I loved about David Stern was that he was real. So, we go into his office one day because I’m at the end and I’m letting him know ‘Mr. Stern, next time someone Hack-a-Shaqs me, I don’t mind taking 15, 20 games,’” O’Neal said.
Shaq was so fed up about getting intentionally fouled that he was actually considering starting a fight and get suspended just to make a statement.
To his surprise, Stern’s response put an end to Shaq’s complain, as he was so straight-forward that he couldn’t help but to crack a laugh:
“Shaq, you’re over here complaining about fouling? I’ve got 28 teams complaining about you,” Stern replied.
However, his frustration was quite understandable, as he took an average of 13.6 free throws per game during the 2000-01 campaign, knocking down just 51.3% of those attempts.
That didn’t prevent Shaq from being one of the most impactful two-way players this game has ever seen, but, like most people told him back in the day: you better work on your free throws.