Facing Michael Jordan can be a stressful and fear-inducing endeavor for any NBA player. Jordan was an insanely gifted NBA player who was capable of taking over any game he was playing in. But Jordan struck fear not just in average-to-decent players, but even some of the NBA’s best ever.
During an interaction on Inside The NBA on TNT, Shaquille O’Neal spoke about the game where Michael Jordan faced off for the first time.
Shaq revealed that he was terrified playing against Jordan, for many reasons, including him being the greatest of all time and the prospect of being dunked on by MJ. O’Neal said that he got to see first-hand the type of player Jordan was, after years of watching him on TV.
“Since the statute of limitations is up – I was terrified out there. The whole game. For one, he’s the greatest player. Two, I was worried about him dunking on me and having to go back and face the fellas. And then three, he was just so hot. Like, the stuff that I saw when I was in college on tv, it’s like really real. I was terrified.”
O’Neal’s comments are interesting, considering Jordan spoke about his first reaction to Shaquille O’Neal in 1997, and how he felt a little bit of intimidation himself. Clearly, Shaq and Joran had tremendous respect for each other’s abilities. Shaq and Jordan would face twice in the playoffs, with Shaq handing Jordan and the Bulls their only playoff series loss between 1991 and 1998.
MJ and Shaq are also linked historically together, as they are the last two players to win 3 consecutive NBA championships and Finals MVP in the NBA, a feat no other NBA player has been able to replicate since.
Even some of the best players in NBA history were worried about the prospect of playing against Michael Jordan. Such was the power of MJ and his aura. However, O’Neal did perform very well on the second time meeting MJ, putting up 20+ points and rebounds respectively, and helping the Magic get the win regardless of Jordan’s 64 points.