Shaquille O’Neal was drafted as the 1st pick in the 1992 NBA draft. He joined the NBA at a time when there were many dominant big men like Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson. Shaq knew if he wanted to make a name for himself, he had to deliver a bold opening statement.
He did just that in his NBA debut. Shaq debuted against the Heat and recorded 12 points, 18 rebounds and three blocks, leading the Magic to a 110-100 win. Shaq made his mark in the league and was voted an All-Star in his rookie season.
In 1995, he led the Magic to an incredible playoff run. They defeated the Celtics in the first round. In the second round, they knocked out Michael Jordan and the Bulls. In the ECF, the magic eliminated the Pacers. However, they could not assert themselves in the final. That defeat hurts Shaq to this day.
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Shaquille O’Neal made a promise to himself after winning the 1995 Finals
During the 1995 finals, Shaq faced what was arguably the best big man in the league at the time, Hakeem Olajuwon. The Rockets, looking for a back-to-back championship, faced Shaq and the Magic. They showed young O’Neal their level and class and easily swept them away.
About his first final and the loss, Shaq said:
“It was my first time in the finals and he (Hakeem) and I had the same agent, so we worked a bit. He was just a nice guy and if I really respect you I will never talk trash to you or do anything. But I tried to talk to him and he didn’t answer, so it kind of let me know he had me. I knew if I said anything to the Georgetown boys they would get mad. I knew David Robinson would throw all the military at me. At Hakeem, I elbowed him and he said, “Good elbow, brotha.” …But growing up with a sergeant teaches you not to make the same mistake twice.”
Shaq was deeply saddened by the loss and resolved that the same thing should never happen to him again.
“That’s why I said to myself, ‘If I ever get to the finals again, I won’t give my head [mouths the word “fuck”] who I play – they’re going to die.” No more nice or respect and all that. I didn’t play by my own rules, I actually showed him too much respect. He was 31 on average [points] and I averaged 28 but we got swept so he owns the title “‘He dogged you out.””
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What is Shaq’s NBA Finals record?
Shaquille O’Neal has played in 6 NBA Finals in his career. The first finale as we know it didn’t go well for Big Diesel. The next three finals, however, went down in the history books. The Lakers won three championships in the trot, with Shaq leading the way. The Lakers won three titles from 2000 to 2002. After that, the Lakers made it to the finals in 2004, where the Pistons handed them a gentlemen’s sweep.
In 2006, Shaq made his last appearance in the NBA Finals, winning his fourth title alongside Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat.
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