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“I think Shaquille O’Neal is the best player other than Michael Jordan”: When Larry Bird and Magic Johnson rightly predicted HOF trajectory for the Lakers legend seeing him play at LSU

By 1992 Michael Jordan had solidified himself as the greatest player in the league. However, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson knew Shaquille O’Neal was going to be the other best player other than MJ, even before he got drafted.  

Shaquille O’Neal spent 3 glorious seasons playing for the Louisiana State University before getting drafted as the #1 pick of the 1992 NBA Draft. As an LSU Tiger, a young Shaq dominated college basketball, averaging a staggering 21.6 points, 13.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and recorded a whopping total of 412 blocks in the 90 college games he played.

The 7-foot-1 big man racked up an impressive college resume – several All-American selections, 2-time SEC Player of the Year, won the Adolph Rupp Trophy and the John Wooden Award as college basketball player of the year, and eventually got inducted in the LSU Hall-Of-Fame with the college honoring his legacy by constructing a 900-pound bronze statue outside their basketball practice facility.

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It was clear that Shaq was destined for greatness in the association and the people who actively followed the league knew this youngster was going to be a star in the league. However, no one could’ve imagined just how great O’Neal would end up becoming… no one but Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.

Magic Johnson and Larry Bird lauded Shaquille O’Neal even before he was drafted into the league

Before The Diesel got drafted into the league, Larry Legend and Magic knew he’d end up being the greatest player in the league.

Johnson was amazed by how Shaq at that height was able to run up and down the hardwood. The LAL legend said:

“He is amazing, and the thing I like him about too is that he can run up and down the basketball court, and you can give it to him on the run, and he can make a good decision.”

Bird would do on to refer to Shaq as the “best player other than Michael Jordan”. Keep in mind, Larry said this even before Shaq played a single game in the NBA.

“If he does the things he is supposed to do, after watching him play, I think he is the best player other than Michael Jordan. I think once he gets into the league and establishes himself, he is going to be the same type of player. He won’t be as flashy, but he is right up there with the best of them.”

 

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Shaq would go on to be regarded as the most dominant center the league has ever seen.



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