Remembering Shaq’s NBA Debut & Dominant First Week In The League
Most people will disagree with me but the most exciting and arguably most dominant Shaquille O’Neal ever was young Shaq in Orlando; The 301-pound Shaq with a 36″ vert and only 10% body fat; The Shaq who would mix up his offense by taking and making turnaround jumpers and even an occasional jump shot from the free throw line; The Shaq who would often shoot 65%+ from the free-throw line before a hundred “shot doctors” tried to help him; The Shaq who would try to take it coast-to-coast every game or catch the ball at the 3-point line and drive down the middle for a dunk; The Shaq who could have led the league in blocks but was told not to go after so many shots so he could avoid foul trouble and remain a force on the offensive end.
In his NBA debut, against the Miami Heat on November 6th of 1992, Shaq scored 12 points, blocked 3 shots and grabbed 18 rebounds — the most in a NBA debut since Bill Walton in 1974.
“When he leaned on me, it was like a house falling on you,” said Miami Heat center Rony Seikaly (did you know Shaq’s trademark dunk logo was inspired by the way Seikaly, who is now a famous DJ, used to dunk?) after the game.
Shaq only attempted 8 shots in the contest since Dennis Scott was hot with 27 points and Nick Anderson was on his way to a then career-high 42. What also might shock a few people watching these highlights for the first time is Shaq’s decent looking shooting form, which resulted in 4-of-7 from the free throw line.
A day later, Shaq dominated early against the Washington Bullets, putting up 16 points and 9 rebounds in the first half. He finished with a game-high 22 points, 15 boards and 4 blocks, including a clutch one in the 4th on Rex Chapman.
Then came the much anticipated game between Shaq and #2 pick Alonzo Mourning. I was excited since I had tickets but since Zo was a contract hold-out, it turned out to be the solo Shaq show. With old-man Kenny Gattison guarding him, Shaq went off for 35 points and 13 rebounds. His chasedown block on Gattison became one of the most shown clips from Shaq’s rookie season.
Unfortunately for the Magic, the Hornets had six players in double-figures and came away with a four-point victory.
In a rematch game with the Bullets, Washington tried double and even triple-teaming Shaq with no success. Shaq dominated with 31 points, 21 rebounds (6 more than the entire Bullets starting lineup) and 4 more blocks in a 27-point victory.
His 5th game is mostly known as the first and only time a player (Derrick Coleman in this game) ever “Posterized” Shaq. Due to foul trouble, Shaq only played 12 minutes in the first half but still finished with 29 points — including 11-of-16 from the line — and 15 rebounds in the loss.
After a week of games, Shaq became the first player in NBA history to win Player of the Week in his first week in the league. He would go on to be the first rookie to start in the NBA All-Star game since Michael Jordan, set five franchise records, break two backboards and win Rookie of the Year by a landslide.
Here’s a few of my ancient Shaq mixes made mainly from my VHS collection.