Shaquille O'Neal is one of the greatest basketball players to ever step on a court. While Shaq could have been excellent at most athletic ventures, basketball is the one he chose and dominated in a way never seen before. He is remembered for being an unstoppable force like we had never seen before, as he imposed his size and strength on whoever stood before him.
When we think of athletes, we are more likely to think of people like Shaq before we think of a gamer. But gaming is a billion-dollar industry and there are many people around the world that make their living off being pro eSports athletes. That is why the NBA has an NBA 2K League as well.
Shaq was speaking to the founder of Full Squad Gaming, Jake Lucky, who asked him if he looked at pro eSports players as pro athletes.
"I wanna commend you guys and I am proud of you guys. Athlete means different things, but athlete means here (points to head). I did a show, it was called 'SHAQ VERSUS'. When I went to race with Dale Earnhardt, that was the hardest shit I've ever done in my life. I'm sitting in the car and we were out there, bro my body was so sore I was like 'God damn'. When I went to swim against Michael Phelps, 15% of the game was physical, everything else is mental. So the things you guys go through, that's why you don't really have a long life shelf. It's what, 3 to 5 to 6 years? It's the same thing with the NBA and NFL. Yes, you guys are athletes. If you say you guys are athletes, I believe you because I can't do what you do. "
A very poignant response from Shaq. If anyone has ever played a video game, they know that it can take several hours to actually become competent with it, let alone competitive against the absolute best in the world.
At the pro level, gaming is an actual craft that takes the same amount of reps a basketball player needs to be a good shooter. It is incredibly challenging, and it is wonderful to see Shaq respect them for their excellence at their sport.