Shaquille O'Neal isn't someone that anyone could stop in his prime. To this day, the big man is arguably the most dominant force the NBA has ever seen. During the threepeat with the Los Angeles Lakers, Shaq had his way with everyone in the paint, and fouling him was pretty much the only option the opposition had of stopping him.
So when a certain Yao Ming entered the league in 2002 after O'Neal had won three back-to-back Finals MVPs, Shaq wasn't too worried about what would happen on the court. However, in their first-ever meeting, Yao blocked O'Neal twice in the opening exchanges, along with altering a couple more of his shots at the rim, something that O'Neal recounted when asked about his first impression of the Chinese superstar.
"My first impression of Yao was, ‘Who the f**k is this?’ Cuz he came in and I tried to hit him with a smooth finger roll move… block. Next play I tried to hit him with the fadeaway… block. Next time I tried to come up with a dunk… block.
"First guy to block my shot three times in a row. So he’s definitely the first guy I had to like changed how I played against him and he’s also the first guy to get it, turn around, look me right in the face and just shoot right over me. So that’s what I thought of when I first thought of Yao."
Shaquille O'Neal and Yao Ming played against one another 18 times in the NBA, with Yao's team winning 8 of those encounters and Shaq's team winning 10. Shaq also had better stats in every basic category throughout those 18 games, but his numbers were rarely as emphatic as they were against some other centers. Watching the two big men go at it was truly one of the more underrated rivalries of the NBA, the only shame is that their peaks didn't coincide for longer.