Shaquille O’Neal, NBA legend turned TNT analyst, recently sat down for an interview with Joe Vardon of cleveland.com. In a bit of a revealing twist, Shaq likened LeBron James‘ game to that of his own. The Big Diesel didn’t stop there, though. He went on to say that he sees a little bit of Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan in James’ play as well.
“He’s a mixture of Michael, Shaq, and Magic,” O’Neal told cleveland.com. “Shaq, because he’s bigger and stronger than everybody. Michael because he can score whenever he feels like it. And Magic because he does a great job getting everybody else involved. He’s been like that his whole career. Even in high school. I knew he was a special guy in high school.”
“I’ve only met two people like him,” O’Neal continued. “Him and Kobe Bryant. Guys that were super determined ever since high school and accomplished all their dreams, and just wanted to be realized and recognized as one of the greatest and both had extraordinary careers.”
In Thursday night’s 135-102 closeout victory over the Boston Celtics, James passed Jordan for the No. 1 spot on the NBA’s all-time postseason scoring list. What about the regular season all-time scoring list? James (28,787) is currently 7th, while Jordan (32,292) holds the No. 4 spot. If we’re talking about jewelry, Jordan has six championship rings to James’ three, although the latter has a chance to win a fourth this season. Comparisons can’t be made simply on scoring and rings alone, however. After all, these are two very different players. James, a small forward, is known to have a facilitate-first mentality. Jordan, a shooting guard, was known as a scoring machine — an absolute assassin. Even still, the two will likely be measured against one another until the end of basketball time.
“He’s always been a joy to watch,” O’Neal said. “He passed Jordan for the leading playoff scorer in history, which I thought was hard to do. Now, once you get one or two (championships), you just try to add them on before your time is up. He has three? Hopefully he can get four this year.”
James and Magic, on the other hand, do have a similar style of play. Magic, one of the best point guards to have ever dribbled a basketball, was an excellent facilitator, very much like James. Johnson (10,141) is currently holding the No. 5 position on the NBA’s all-time assists list. James (7,461) is in hot pursuit, trailing just behind in 12th place. How about that hardware? Magic, a former No. 1 overall pick in the 1979 draft, is a five-time champion. Again, James has three (going for four).
O’Neal, a four-time NBA champion and former teammate of James, knows a thing or two about scoring in the playoffs, as he is currently fifth on the all-time list. The King passed Shaq for seventh place on the regular season all-time scoring list earlier this year. Despite their contrasting height (7’1″ to 6’8″) and size, there are indeed similarities in James and O’Neal’s style of play — most notably, strength. The 15-time All-Star tells cleveland.com that James seems stronger ever.
“He’s stronger, he’s lighter,” O’Neal said. “He’s more in tune because before you get a championship you don’t know what to do. Nobody knows what to do. And then when you finally get it, you say ‘OK, this is what I gotta do.’ So he went away a couple years to Miami, figured out the blueprint. Came back here, got the supporting cast he needed. Got the coach he needed and bam, there you have it.”
All three of these players — Michael, Magic, and Shaq — changed the game of basketball, each in their own right. To be at that table is all James has ever wanted.