Michael Jordan's competitiveness and desire to win made him realize which players had that X-factor in them, and he didn't hesitate to praise them and warn the rest of the world about those future stars. The most famous case is obviously Kobe Bryant, who always earned big praise from Jordan, even since he was a very young player in the league.
But Kobe wasn't the only one who earned praise from MJ. Jamal Crawford has often spoken about his runs with Jordan, where they won several 2-on-2 duels. LeBron James is also one of those players who caught MJ's attention, but if there were a player that really delighted His Airness, that was Los Angeles Lakers legend Shaquille O'Neal.
Ever since he made it to the NBA, O'Neal displayed great things, hinting at what was coming to the league once he reached his prime. He was great with the Orlando Magic and then took things to the next level with the Lakers, becoming one of the most dominant players in NBA history.
Michael Jordan Said He Would Have Played At 43 Years Old If Shaq Was On His Team
When he was traded to the Miami Heat, many people couldn't understand that decision, including MJ, who claimed he would've never made that move and could even play past his 40s if he had a player like Shaq on his team.
Back in 2005, the GOAT sat down for an interview with Cigar Aficionado, where he touched on many topics. At the time, the Shaq trade was still a big thing around the NBA, and MJ was asked about it. Jordan claimed that he would've never traded Shaq, no matter what.
MRS: How would you fix the Lakers today?
JORDAN: I would have never gotten rid of Shaq [O'Neal]. It's as simple as that. You've got three championships with a big man, and big men are hard to find. Not only that, you have the most dominant big man in the game today. You don't just send him away because you got some problems.
Jordan even went on to say that he'd still be playing if he had a teammate like Shaq on his squad.
MRS: Does Kobe read about what's going on in Miami?
JORDAN: I'm pretty sure he does. But you can't blame one guy. It's a combination of both of them. If you've got success in your house, you find a way to manage so that everybody prospers and everybody is viewed as champions. Personalities got involved after they'd had some success. It becomes about individuals—individual goals that they wanted to achieve. Be it Kobe leading the league in scoring and carrying the team by himself, or Shaq proving he can win without Kobe. What's the purpose of changing if you've got the right mixture that's working? Give me a seven-footer and I'd probably still be playing right now.
MJ always knew the type of player Shaq was, and he never hid his admiration for the Big Diesel. The NBA is lucky that these two never played together outside an All-Star Game, because that would have been unfair for the rest of the competition. Jordan knew Shaq was special and gave the Lakers a piece of advice in 2005. However, it was too late to reverse their decision, as Shaq was in Miami, ready to win a championship with Dwyane Wade in South Beach.
There are some huge 'what ifs' in NBA history, but one of the biggest is what would have happened if Shaq and Kobe stayed together. Further, many wonder what would have happened if Jordan and O'Neal had teamed up in the league.