15-time NBA All-Star Shaquille O’Neal is the most dominant center ever. His 22-sized footprints are still felt in today’s game. He changed the way referees call games, changed the way coaches draw up defensive game plans. He made the Magic. He reinvigorated the Lakers. He legitimized the Heat. Shaq was bigger, stronger, faster, more agile and—missed free throws aside—more skilled than any other of the great centers before and after him.
Off the court, Shaq’s marketing-savvy and personality big enough to match his massive frame helped cement a path for professional athletes. He was a brand long before it was part in parcel with being a professional athlete. Between movies, tv appearances, albums, designing clothes and endorsements, the Newark, New Jersey native leveraged his celebrity to build an empire for himself. Even people who don’t know anything about basketball know Shaq.
From the minute he arrived in the NBA, it was clear he was going to be great. But when your greatness is so apparent, it’s only natural that you get a target on your back. Especially if you’re going around calling yourself Superman and claiming you have never been dunked on. And since Shaq was an attention magnet, especially on the floor, he had no choice but to push around those who dared challenge him.
If only these NBA players had picked up a copy of Shaq’s 1996 rap album because they would have been spared the humiliation of trying to stop the reign. Here are 15 NBA players bullied by Shaquille O’Neal.
15 Dikembe Mutombo
Is there anything more disrespectful than using a player’s signature taunt against him?
February 2007, the Miami Heat are in Houston to play the Rockets. With just five minutes to go in the fourth quarter, the Heat are trailing 105-92. Shaq get the ball in the paint and posts up Rockets center Dikembe Mutombo, who, now at 41, was not the same fearsome shot blocker he was in the 90s. Shaq missed his first dunk attempt thanks to some good defense by Mutombo, caught his own rebound and stuffed it down on the Congolese 7-footer.
As soon as the ball went through the hoop and Shaq came back down to the ground, Shaq’s wagging finger got all up in Dikembe Mutombo’s face. He was T’d up almost instantly for taunting. The Rockets would go on to win the game 112-102, but the real loser was Dikembe who got dunked on so hard that he lost his trademark.
14 David Robinson
Shaq and David Robinson have a rocky past. Apparently, Robinson snubbed a young Shaq on an autograph during his time at Texas' Cole High. The two would exchange barbs through media and print for years. But Shaq got the best of Robinson at the 1996 NBA All-Star Game.
At Robinson’s home arena, the old Alamodome in San Antonio, Shaq ran a break with Grant Hill as the fourth quarter was winding down. Hill found the Big Aristotle at the top of the key. Shaq took one dribble and powered through a one-handed tomahawk dunk over a contesting Robinson. 'Oohs' and 'Ahhs' were heard from the crowd as Shaq saluted teammate and fellow Omega Psi Phi member Michael Jordan with Que Dog hooks. Shaq helped lead the East to a 129-118 victory with 25 points and 10 rebounds.
It wasn’t the first time Shaq posterized the Admiral and it wouldn’t be the last. But the vicious slam in an exhibition game for the fans on the hometown team’s star was beyond humiliating.
13 Charles Barkley
Never mind the time Barkley bounced the ball off Shaq’s head and instigated a fight, Shaq’s bullying of the Round Mound of Rebound has reached new heights on TNT’s Inside the NBA. After practically every broadcast, Shaq hops on social media to roast his co-panelist. And since Barkley’s not on social media, he gets to see what Shaq’s saying but has no way of responding.
Just recently, the pair got heated around LeBron’s public comments about the Cleveland Cavaliers needing a playmaker. That was something that Barkley felt was ridiculous, given they had just won the championship over the Golden State Warriors in 2016. Shaq, meanwhile, went hard on Barkley saying, “You know nothing about going back-to-back.”
It seems whenever the two disagree on a topic, Shaq asks about how many championships Charles has won. No one knows better than Charles Barkley that he has won zero championships, and it must hurt every time.
12 Dwight Howard
Early in Howard’s career, he was often compared to a young Shaq. Physically-gifted centers that gave rise to Magic teams. How could the media resist comparing their narratives? This eventually led to Howard co-opting the “Superman” nickname, which was a source of annoyance for O’Neal.
Shaq slighted Howard constantly in his new role on TNT. Whenever the subject of best centers was broached, Shaq would insist Dwight Howard didn’t belong in the conversation. He was a top rebounder, an explosive scorer and an elite defender at the time. None of that mattered to Shaq. DH12 was a pick and roll player with two moves.
This went on for years, but last spring the beef was squashed when Howard signed with O’Neal’s former agent Perry Rogers. Shaq told Yahoo the reason he needled Howard is motivational. "I want him to play like a big man. That's why I mess with him. People think it's a personal thing, but it's not a personal thing.”
Nothing personal, I just have no respect for your game, Dwight.
11 Chris Dudley
Shaq’s had some monster jams in his day, but of one the nastiest dunk he ever threw down was in March 1999. Shaq was backing down the Knicks’ journeyman center Chris Dudley on the low block. Once he was close enough, Shaq spun and elevated for the dunk.
Dudley stayed in front of Shaq and did all he could to defend the basket. However, Shaq was just too big a powerful to be contained by Dudley. Shaq baptized Dudley, but it didn’t end there. With Dudley still all over him when he was coming off the rim, Shaq continued to hurl his weight forward and—as a part of his follow-through—pushed Dudley to the ground.
Dudley took exception to the action and whipped the ball at Shaq. Dudley would get tossed and join teammate Kurt Thomas in the locker room since Thomas was ejected for trying to fight then-Laker Dennis Rodman earlier in the game.
10 Andrew Bynum
As unlikely as it sounds, both teams won the 2004 Shaquille O’Neal trade that saw the big man leave LA for Miami. By pairing a young D-Wade with Shaq, the Heat became contenders. With Shaq gone, there was no longer a power-struggle between two Lakers stars and eventually the (short-lived) emergence of Andrew Bynum rescued the Lakers from oblivion.
In Bynum’s rookie year, the center showed flashes of dominance. In a game against the Miami Heat on January 16th, 2006, Bynum was matched up against the former Laker for the first time. At one point, O'Neal dunked over Bynum on a putback attempt. On the next play, Bynum spun past O'Neal and dunked the ball. He then ran down the court and shoved O'Neal with his elbow, who retaliated by throwing a sucker punch. Teammate Kobe Bryant quickly stepped in between the two. Both Bynum and O'Neal received technical fouls for the incident.
9 Derrick Coleman
In the early 90s, before the NBA started to use breakaway nets, Shaq’s penchant for breaking backboards only added to his mythology.
In 1993, the Orlando Magic were in Jersey to face the Nets. With three minutes left in the first quarter, Shaq got the ball, took one power dribble and slammed the ball home, bringing the backboard down with him. In the replay, you can see the 1990 NBA Draft first overall pick, Derrick Coleman, rush to help but instantly give up on the play. When the backboard starts coming down, Shaq runs and bumps Coleman, as if to say watch out little man.
However, Coleman would have the last laugh. On NBA Open Court, Shaq told the panel of former players that only one guy in the NBA dunked on. “Derrick Coleman. In Jersey. He just came out, and I thought he was going to finger roll it, and he just dunked. Then he made this finger thing. After that I told myself I am not getting dunked on anymore,” O’Neal recalled. “There’s a difference between dunked on and dunked by. I’ve been dunked by 20-30 times, but dunked on, chest to chest, just one time,” he said.
8 Arvydas Sabonis
The Lakers and the Trailblazers had one heck of a rivalry in the late 90s and early 2000s. It’s often said that Shaq’s decision to bulk up came from the fact he didn’t like getting manhandled by the West Conference’s big centers like Arvydas Sabonis. Of course, this would end up being a huge mistake later in his career as it took all the spring out of his legs, reduced his lateral quickness and made him more injury prone. Regardless, Shaq was so annoyed playing against a big, skilled center like Sabonis, he transformed his body to make himself a more effective bully.
Whenever these two teams played, there was always something bound to happen. The cheapest of shots was delivered from Shaq to Sabonis on January 16th, 1997, when Shaq caught an alley top and slammed it through the hoop. On his way down, Shaq stuck out his elbow so that it would connect with Sabonis’ head.
Shaq was immediately ejected and the bad blood continued for years.
7 Brad Miller
On January 13th, 2002, Shaq and the Lakers were in Chicago. The Bulls had made clear before the game that they were not going to let Shaq push them around. So whenever he caught the ball, Charles Oakley and Brad Miller would rush to foul him if he was anywhere close to the basket. At this point in time, it was well-known that Shaq was a below-average free throw shooter and teams were better off letting him shoot from the line than anywhere else on the court.
With the Lakers leading 87-84 in the fourth quarter, Shaq caught an entry pass in the paint and was immediately flanked by Oakley and Miller who fouled him hard. Though the Hack-a-Shaq strategy had become common by then, Shaq finally snapped and O'Neal immediately went after Miller, throwing two roundhouse punches while Miller had his back turned. The first punch was the most ferocious, and fortunately it missed. The second one connected before O'Neal and Miller fell to the floor and a full-scale melee broke out. Shaq was ejected and suspended 3 games. But at least for the next few games, teams thought twice about fouling Shaq. He may not be able to hit free throws but if one of his 350-pound haymakers connects, that’s curtains.
6 Alvin Robertson
On March 31st, 1993, Shaquille O’Neal’s Magic traveled to the Palace of Auburn Hills to take on the Detroit Pistons. For all intents and purposes, the Pistons were still the Bad Boys and things got ugly.
Pistons Coach Ron Rothstein wanted to put Shaq on the line, so one of the biggest bullies in NBA history Bill Laimbeer tried to foul him. The foul wasn’t called, however, so Laimbeer tried harder. "He chopped me right across the head the first time," O'Neal said after the game. "I told him, 'Don't do it again or I'll take care of you.' If the man can't (defend) me, he shouldn't be in the game."
Just as it looked as though Laimbeer and O’Neal were going to fight, Laimbeer’s teammate Alvin Robertson stepped in between the two big men to act as a peacemaker. Shaq misunderstood and smacked Robertson across the face.
Shaq was suspended for one game and fined $10,250.
5 Kobe Bryant
They may have had great chemistry, great enough to three-peat, on the court, Shaq and Kobe’s relationship off the court was acrimonious. Kobe was always frustrated by Shaq’s lack of work ethic and Shaq didn’t appreciate Kobe’s constant belief that he deserved a bigger role on the team.
The two would exchange barbs in the media for years. But Shaq totally went after Kobe in 2008. A week after Kobe’s Lakers lost to the Boston Celtics in the Finals, Shaq got on stage at a NYC club to spit a few bars. "You know how I be," Shaq rapped. "Last week Kobe couldn't do without me.” He also implored the crowd to sing along to his oft-repeated chorus: "Kobe [expletive], tell me how my [expletive] tastes.”
"I'm a horse. Kobe ratted me out," he rapped. "That's why I'm getting divorced. He said Shaq gave a [woman] a mil. I don't do that 'cause my name's Shaquille. I love 'em, I don't leave 'em. I got a vasectomy, now I can't breed 'em."
O'Neal ended his rap by singing, "Kobe, you can't do without me" over and over, which is just plain awesome. As teammates, it always intense between the pair so you could say they actually bullied each other.
4 Steve Nash
It is bizarre, when looking over Shaq’s NBA career, that the Diesel only has 1 MVP award. He came close many times, but none were closer than the 2004/05 season. However, Shaq lost the award to Steve Nash by only 34 points (1066 – 1032, Dirk was 3rd with 349 pts) and many thought it was a joke that the Suns guard who averaged 15.5 points and 11.5 assists won it over Miami’s big man.
Those same people thought it was an even bigger joke when he won it again the following season, joining an elite class of player with multiple MVP awards. Shaq is probably the loudest and most recognizable face in this camp.
Shaq did an interview with Vibe Magazine and spoke candidly about the robbery: “Steve Nash is my boy, but I don’t see how the f— he got it twice. I was taught never to complain because you can’t beat the system. People know who the real dominant guy was. But Steve Nash, I don’t want to say it because you might print it and it might cause problems. I don’t believe he beat me out twice.”
The two would play together for two seasons in Phoenix. You would think the time together would help Shaq see how Nash’s game elevated the play of his teammates, but no. Shaq still maintains that Steve Nash’s two MVP awards were given to him out of sympathy and that he still deserves the award.
3 Scott Skiles
It’s crazy to think that the gritty, no-nonsense Scott Skiles and the jovial, fun-loving Shaquille O’Neal managed to coexist. Well, they did but not without some physical altercations.
"He always got under my skin. He was like a little gnat," O'Neal said of his first NBA point guard. "He just used to talk too much. Talk about nothing.”
In 1994, Skiles, a wily veteran, and O’Neal, a sophomore superstar, were practicing with the Magic in Los Angeles. Skiles recalled the incident to the Chicago Tribune, telling them, "Actually, Shaq got into a scrap with one of my teammates," Skiles said. "And I got tired of everybody separating them. I went over and said, `Why don't you guys stop [faking it] and just fight?' Then he took a swing at me.”
"He swung, but I ducked under it and ended up in kind of a headlock," Skiles said. "There were many punches landed. It turned into a whole team melee. When I charged [O'Neal], he had me by the neck in a headlock. My neck was sore for like six weeks. I don't think I'd go that route again."
2 Kyrie Irving
Shaq shocked the internet recently when it appeared he came out in support of the Flat Earth theory. "The s--t looks flat to me. ... I do not go up and down on a 360-degree angle, and all that stuff about gravity. Have you looked outside of Atlanta lately and seen all these buildings? So you mean to tell me that China is under us? China is under us? It's not. The world is flat,” Shaq declared on his The Big Podcast with Shaq.
Shaq walked back those comments during the NBA on TNT broadcast, saying that he was just trolling the NBA’s foremost Flat Earther, Kyrie Irving. While critics believe Shaq was being irresponsible using his massive platform to spread conspiracy theories with his ambiguous tone, we can only imagine how disappointed Uncle Drew was when he learned Shaq wasn’t really on his side. Additionally, Shaq has often criticized Kyrie on the show.
1 Javale McGee
Shaq’s popular Shaqtin a Fool segment owes its success to Javale McGee’s brain-farts. When Shaq introduces a basketball blooper by shouting the name, “JAVALE MCGEE,” fans know they are in for a treat.
Since finding a limited role on a very good team this season, McGee’s doesn’t want to be synonymous with Shaqtin a Fool as it almost drove him out of the league. Regardless of McGee’s competent play with the Warriors, Shaq kept finding ways to pick on McGee. The two have had Twitter wars rage since and it’s gotten so bad that Kevin Durant, Steve Kerr and even McGee’s mother Pamela have publicly asked Shaq to tone it down.
O’Neal responded by threatening to “smack the s**t” out of McGee while calling him a “bumass” in several tweets. It’s unclear what Shaq’s motivation for pushing McGee around is. Boredom? Branding? Maybe he knows it’s his last chance to bully McGee because come June, we may have to say “NBA Champion Javale McGee,” every time he appears on Shaqtin.