Shaquille O'Neal was virtually unstoppable on the court. The former NBA MVP is considered the most dominant player in NBA history. And the way he was able to get the better of his opponents with ease was truly mesmerizing. But Lakers head coach Phil Jackson would not let Shaq play against one team in particular, because it was a bad match-up for him.
During an appearance on TNT Tuesday, Shaquille O'Neal spoke about NBA players struggling with certain match-ups. He revealed that Phil Jackson would rest him against the Utah Jazz because it was a bad match-up, and told him to go off and score as many points as possible whenever he played next (4:20 onwards).
“I played with a guy in Phil Jackson that did that. He knows how we won all our championships, we never had to play Utah. But when we first got there, he told the team as well. He told me, he pulled me aside, said ‘Shaq take these two games off… And then when you come back I need you to get 40’… The man had a great resume so I listened. For me, it was like getting rest.”
Jackson probably thought that John Stockton and Karl Malone's elite pick-and-roll routine would have overwhelmed Shaq, and didn't want to risk having his best player lose confidence. Jackson had experience coaching against the Utah Jazz, having successfully coached the Chicago Bulls against the Jazz in consecutive NBA Finals wins in 1997 and 1998.
Shaq clearly had no problem listening to Jackson, because of his resume prior to reaching the Lakers. Jackson had won 6 NBA championships as the head coach of the Chicago Bulls, so he knew what to do with his players. And given how much respect players like Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen had for Jackson, Shaq felt it was the right decision to listen to Jackson.