Shaquille O’Neal is one of the great centers. Even post his prime, he was dominating. And he was able to do so because Shaq’s basketball fundamentals are great.
I was scrolling through YouTube a couple of days ago and a video of Shaquille O’Neal vs Kobe Bryant was suggested to me.
Being a Kobe and Shaq fan, I was intrigued and watched through the entire thing.
The game was exciting. Kobe did his thing and Shaq did his thing.
But the interesting nugget about this game highlight is that Shaq was 36 years-old.
Yup. It was 2009 and he was playing with the Phoenix Suns that season. This was also the season that many doubters did what they did and doubted his ability to compete.
But he rose like a phoenix (pun intended) and proved them wrong.
The previous season, Shaq didn’t mesh too well with the Suns. They ran a fast-paced game and he just couldn’t get a hold of the system.
He ended the season only averaging 12.9 points (a career-low) in 28 games with the team.
So, the doubters weren’t completely wrong to predict that Shaq would have another bad season.
However, Shaq knew he had to make some changes to his game to fit in with this team. So he pivoted (pun intended again) and adapted.
Shaq’s 2009 Accomplishments
As a result, the 2008-09 season was one of the best seasons for him in a while.
He was voted in to be an All-Star (and was named co-MVPs with pal Kobe Bryant), averaged 17.8 points (on 60 percent shooting) and 8.4 rebounds, and played 75 games.
These numbers may not seem that impressive, but for a 36-year-old, it’s pretty amazing.
Additionally, he also played some of the best games of his career this season. In the game prior to the one I shared, he scored 45 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
In the game I shared, he scored 33 points and grabbed 7 rebounds and dished out 3 assists.
Again, he was in his mid-30s when he did this. I’m in my mid-30s and I can barely play two pick-up games up to 11.
So, how was he able to perform so well?
The first thing to point out is that Shaq’s basketball fundamentals are extraordinary.
From the highlight, I noticed that he didn’t do anything spectacular.
He stuck to his fundamentals and used his phenomenal footwork in the post to deke out defenders. He also used his size and strength to his advantage, bully balling the smaller defenders.
How Shaquille O’Neal Learned The Game Of Basketball
There’s this video from Open Court: Basketball 101 from a few years back. In it, Shaq talked about how he developed his style.
It’s important to note because it explains how he was able to continue playing at a high level even in his mid to late 30s.
Shaq said that when he was starting out as a young basketball player, his father preached Kareem-Abdul Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, and Bill Russell. So the first move that he learned and mastered was a basic skyhook.
After he honed that skill, he wanted to be flashier. So, he practiced the jump hook -something he got from Willis Reed and Patrick Ewing.
He also added a fast break game, where he took the ball from one end to the other (something he got from David Robinson and the guards that he studied).
Entering the NBA in 1991, Shaq had some nice tools in his belt. He continued to add more to it, of course.
But he always kept tweaking and improving his core tools because he knew those were the ones that he could rely on.
And this is how he was able to put up big numbers as a 36-year-old center.
He removed a lot of the “showtime,” and mainly used his fundamentals.
He went to his footwork and hook-shot to help him perform well and to help him contribute to his team.
All new players should model their basketball development after Shaquille O’Neal’s career.
They have to master the fundamentals first before they go on and add flash to their game.
Not only will this make the cool skills easier to learn, but it’ll also give them the tools that they can rely on when they get older.
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