When we speak of the most dominant player in NBA history, we think of NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal. Shaq spent 19 years in the league and during his phenomenal career he won 4 NBA Championships.
Although Shaq declined at an alarming rate during the last few seasons of his career, when he was with the Lakers, he was at his sparkling best. The Big Aristotle helped the Lakers win three consecutive NBA Championships and played unarguably the best basketball of his career.
Moreover, during the NBA Finals of each season, he simply elevated his game to the next level. But behind the domination we witnessed, there was a promise that he made to himself a few years ago before his time with the Lakers.
Yes, we are talking about the time when O'Neal used to play for the Orlando Magic. While Shaq's skills were still unpolished at the time, he managed to lead the Magic to the 1995 NBA Finals.
Unfortunately, during the NBA Finals, he hit a boulder in Hakeem Olajuwon. Throughout the NBA Finals, Shaq was outplayed by Hakeem, which led to the Magic getting swept at the hands of the Houston Rockets.
In a recent conversation with NBA insider Brandon "Scoop B" Robinson, Shaq shared what promise he made to himself after getting utterly embarrassed by Hakeem.
"After making it to the Finals in ’95 & getting embarrassed by Hakeem Olajuwon, I said to myself, 'If I ever go back, I gotta put on a performance so dominant that it won’t be a question who the champ is.'"
Although the Magic were embarrassed by the Rockets in the 1995 NBA Finals, Shaq was better in almost every category than Hakeem. O'Neal averaged a stunning 28.0 points, 12.5 rebounds, 6.3 assists, and 2.5 blocks per game in the series.
On the other hand, Hakeem averaged 32.8 points, 11.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 2.0 blocks per game. So it was understandable that Shaq was frustrated after not winning even a single game against the Rockets.
But he went on to fulfill his promise to put on a dominant performance in his next NBA Finals appearance. Shaq helped the Lakers win three consecutive NBA titles from 2000-2002.
He averaged 38.0 points, 16.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 2.7 blocks in the 2000 NBA Finals and led the Lakers to a stunning victory against the Indiana Pacers. When you take a look at his numbers during the 3-peat era, they simply look ridiculous because he averaged 35.9 points, 14.9 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game.
That's not all. His entire stats from the three championship series look unrealistic. There is no doubt that losing to Hakeem in the 1995 NBA Finals awakened a beast that the league was not ready for.