Shaquille O'Neal, at his peak, was the most dominant physical force the NBA had seen since Wilt Chamberlain. Shaq combined his overpowering strength with some nimble footwork to make himself the most unstoppable scoring threat in the league at the time.
That was the case more so than at any other point, from 2000 to 2002, when Shaq led the Los Angeles Lakers to a historic three-peat. The Lakers crushed their competition in those 3 Finals, and O'Neal was a big reason why.
"SHAQ in the NBA Finals:
2000 - 38 PPG, 16.7 RPG, 2.7 BPG & 2.3 APG.
2001 - 33 PPG, 15.8 RPG, 4.8 APG & 3.4 BPG.
2002 - 36.3 PPG, 12.3 RPG, 3.8 APG & 2.8 BPG.
Shaq manhandled the Indiana Pacers in the 2000 Finals by averaging 38 points per game, but his performance in 2001 against the Philadelphia 76ers stands out, as he did it against Dikembe Mutombo, who won Defensive Player of the Year that season. Averaging 33 points per game on 57.3% shooting against the DPOY speaks to just how dominant Shaq was at that time, and the New Jersey Nets never really stood a chance in the 2002 Finals as they got swept.
While the Lakers express looked unstoppable, the train was about to go off the rails soon enough. While they enjoyed tremendous success together on the court, tensions between O'Neal and Kobe Bryant were reaching a boiling point off the court. They would make one more trip to the Finals in 2004, but the team was so fractured by that point that they lost to the Detroit Pistons in 5 games.
O'Neal was traded after that, and one can only wonder how much more they could have won if they stayed together, with Shaq recently claiming that they were the most dominant duo in NBA history. After the breakup, O'Neal went on to win a championship with the Miami Heat in 2006, but he just wasn't the same player. Shaq didn't take care of his body as he should have done, which meant we were robbed of seeing O'Neal at his dominant best for an extended period of time.