On this day in history, April 2nd of 1998, Shaq dominated the New Jersey Nets with 8 dunks, 14 free throws and 50 total points.
”What are you going to do?” said Lucious Harris during the aftermath. ”He’s 7-7 and weighs 800 pounds.”
Well, he didn’t weigh 800 until he played for the Celtics at the end of his career (joking), but the 300+ pound beast that Harris and the Nets faced on this night was way too much for his replacement in Orlando, Rony Seikaly, and the undersized journeyman Chris Gatling, who had the pleasure of guarding Shaq with Jayson Williams injured on the bench.
The Newark-born Shaq has always played well in New Jersey — like 24 points, 28 boards and 15 blocks well and tear down the backboard well — but he and the Lakers were a little more hyped up for this game because of statements by the Nets’ Kendall Gill earlier in the season: Gill thought the Lakers were overrated because they only had “one legitimate All-Star.” Even though they had Nick Van Exel, Eddie Jones, Robert Horry, Rick Fox and a young Kobe Bryant on the roster, that “one legitimate All-Star” was all the Lakers needed to dominate the Nets. By halftime, Shaq had 26 points on 18 of 26 shooting.
‘We couldn’t control him at all down there,” Gill said after the game. ”He was running the court. I’ve never seen, in my eight years, a center run down the court and get that many free baskets.”
”They put an arm on him and it’s like a gnat. The kid is huge. And he was enormous tonight.” Nets Coach John Calipari said of his undersized team.
Not everybody on the Nets was so full of compliments. Rising star Keith Van Horn took exception to Shaq padding his stats in a blowout game.
”That really isn’t necessary,” said the rookie Keith Van Horn. ”If we were up 20 on them, we would not have our All-Star in shooting 3’s. I don’t think we’ve ever done that to anyone. We’ve blown teams out and we always take our starters out. It’s just a sign of respect.”
One other sign in this game was the sign of a rising star in Kobe Bryant, who scored 20 off the bench capped off by a windmill dunk.