Take one look at the teammates he's had over the years, and you know it's true — this guy has played with Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Steve Nash and LeBron James. He's now playing alongside a quartet of fellow All-Stars in Celtic green.
Shaq has seen a lot of legendarily good players in his 18-plus years in the NBA ranks. He knows a special talent when he sees it.
So when he voices high praise for L.A. Clippers forward Blake Griffin, people had better listen up.
O'Neal told The Boston Globe this week that Griffin is on his short list of the NBA's best, that he has the ability to be a champion and that he even wants his son to model himself after the Clips' young star.
"He’s fabulous," O'Neal said of Griffin. "You guys know I don’t give it up to anybody, but I’m giving it up to that young fella."
Griffin's earned his props. After sitting out all of last season with a stress fracture in his knee, the former No. 1 pick has exploded this year for 20.0 points and 11.7 rebounds per game. In the first 23 games of his pro career, he has 15 double-doubles.
Shaq knows what it's like to be a young star captivating Southern California. Fourteen years ago, when Griffin was in grade school, Shaq was in that role.
He went on to win four rings, three of them with Phil Jackson's Lakers. Griffin has what it takes to do the same, Shaq says.
"I think he has the ability," O’Neal said. "He just now has to figure out a way to lift his team to where they win all the time now. Right now he’s putting up big numbers, but [the media] are going to start turning the table real soon on him. 'Why’s he putting up big numbers and his team ain't winning?' I know once those guys start to play together and win, it’ll be more of a story."
O'Neal is right. Shaq, just like Kobe and just like Wade, didn't officially hit the big time until he started winning rings. LeBron isn't there yet. But Griffin could be.
"He’s got a good team," O'Neal said of Griffin's Clippers. "They’ve just got to play a little more together and they’ve just got to get tired of losing."
The Clippers are currently 5-19 — dead last, the worst record in the NBA. But down the road, there's still hope for them.
Shaq sees a lot in Blake Griffin — quite possibly a lot of himself. When you have a dominant post player that can carry a team on his back, you have the makings of a dynasty.
Shaquille O'Neal is more than just a living legend of basketball. He's a student of the game. And his studies have shown that the league will be in good shape once he's gone. In fact, the future has already arrived.
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