The first NBA player, no actually the first athlete I ever fell in love with was Shaquille O’Neal. Charismatic, powerful, goofy, entertaining and exuberant, Shaq’s image started to become imprinted into the brains of sports fans and then in time, the world. At first it was Kazam, then it was hilarious bleeped out locker room interviews and ultimately the image of O’Neal screaming “Can you dig it?!” during championship parades in L.A.
His thundering style of play around the basket was something the NBA needed to fill the void of Moses Malone, Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain. Shaq was something you couldn’t stop watching. We here at Philadunkia tip our caps to Shaq on what is no doubt a Hall of Fame career. He is a true original on and off the court.
Yet, as amazing has his career ended up being, Shaquille O’Neal was bested by our 76ers a fair share of times. And since this is still a very dedicated and loyal 76ers site, we’re going to honor Shaq’s career as only we could.
After hitting the books on some NBA history we came up with the top five moments in which the Sixers got the best of the NBA’s original “Superman”.
5) April 8, 1995– An NBA season without Michael Jordan would grant Shaq his first Finals trip in only his third season in the League. And boy was it ever a season. Shaq averaged 29.3 – second highest total in his career – and posted 40 points or more in nine games — almost 11 percent of the time.
Somehow though, the abysmal 1994-95 Sixers team (finishing 24-58 under then head coach John Lucas) got the best of Orlando on this night. The 7-6 stifled the Magic in the fourth, holding Orlando to just 12 points in the quarter. Dana Barros erupted for a triple-double scoring 25 points, dishing out 15 dimes and hauling down 11 rebounds. Even rookie big man Derrick Alston poured in 22 points, and this is coming from a guy who was out of the League after three seasons.
4) January 27, 2002– A rematch of the 2001 NBA Finals had the defending champions leaving the City of Brotherly Love with their heads hung low. By this point Iverson’s 29 spot was not out of the usual and again it did trump both Shaq (26) and Kobe (20). But the Sixers won this one thanks to Dikembe Mutombo’s 13 points (6-of-8 shooting) and 18 rebounds as opposed to Shaq’s measly 11 boards.
The Sixers out-boarded the mighty Lakers 54-42 and were also helped out by Derrick Coleman’s 18 and 10. The Lakers were limited on the line, only making 12-of-18 free throws as opposed to the Sixers 24-for-29 conversion rate. In the height of the ‘Hack-A-Shaq’ days, O’Neal was 4-of-9 from the line. The Sixers suffered that ever-so-present NBA finals hangover this season though and were ousted by the Celtics in round one of the playoffs.
3) April 15, 2005– How on earth were the Sixers able to survive 48 Dwyane Wade points, winning 126-119 in overtime? The answer: Marc Jackson. No, not the guard and NBA analyst. I’m talking about the 6’10” local product out of Temple who miraculously scored 26 points that night in April. Jackson went 12-of-12 from the charity stripe and the Sixers were 33-of-34 all together. The Miami bench – Alonzo Mourning, Christian Laettner, Shandon Anderson – combined for only 11 total points.
This was easily Shaq’s quietest game on the list. He scored a mere 13 points and he took just nine shots, compared to Wade’s 33 attempts. Credit the defensive effort from Sam Dalembert and Chris Webber. By the way, Iverson also had 38 points and 16 assists. Just another day at the office for the legendary Sixer. I think people really took him for granted during his stay. The Sixers finished 43-39 and in the post season lost in the first round to the eventual Eastern Conference champs, the Detroit Pistons, who of course were led by former Sixers Coach Larry Brown.
2) March 19, 1999– It was Larry Brown’s second season with the Sixers and many have called this 105-90 victory over the Lakers the turning point during his tenure in Philadelphia. Allen Iverson’s 41 points outdid both Shaq’s 23 and Kobe’s 16 points. Shaq was even held to just four rebounds. Four other Sixers finished in double figures – Eric Snow, George Lynch, Tyrone Hill and Theo Ratliff – outpacing the efforts of Laker role players like Rick Fox, Robert Horry and Derrick Harper.
1999 was the year of the NBA lockout and also a year the Sixers propelled themselves all the way to the second round with little-to-no talent. The team finished 28-22, good for the sixth seed in the East. Iverson delivered in his first ever postseason series, leading the Sixers to a 3-1 route over the Magic. Even though every win over Orlando was by double digits, the inexperienced Sixers were swept by the Pacers in round two.
1) June 6, 2001– Yes, Shaquille O’Neal had 44 points and 20 rebounds in Game 1 of the last NBA Finals the 76ers participated in, but on this night, Shaq wasn’t the most dominant player on the court. Allen Iverson’s 48 points, six rebounds, five steals and five assists sunk the Lakers in overtime at the Staples Center. Check out the entire box score if you want a chuckle.
Put on your memory caps for a second, and remember that this game went into OT, where the Lakers scored the first five points of the extra session, only to see Sixers tally up 13 of the final 15 points. Iverson scored the final seven points including this memorable baseliner on Tyron Lue. This win was the Sixers only W of the series and it has to be in a top 10 moment in franchise history. This was vintage Shaq, arguably at his best ever (44; 20 & 5 dimes). Stealing one from the ‘Diesel’ caused a ruckus in Philly and across the country. There hasn’t been a win to top it since….