‘Shaq Vs.’ Showed Why Fans Love the Hall of Fame Big Man
Shaquille O’Neal did many things outside of basketball during his two-decade career in the NBA. At any given point, O’Neal could have been rapping, acting, filming a commercial, launching a new product, or letting off some steam on social media.
Perhaps, the most impressive extracurricular activity on O’Neal’s Hall of Fame resume was his skill in a wide array of sports and activities outside of basketball.
Shaq’s far-reaching brand
One does not become the household name that O’Neal is without success. On the court, he turned heads at a young age and continued getting better up until his years in Louisiana. By 1992, he was the most heavily-sought-after name in the draft. For nearly 20 years onward, the sports world had one of its biggest characters in history.
O’Neal wasted no time letting the world know that he was different. He starred in Blue Chips before he played in the NBA, and for the next few years, he showed that he was not against taking chances. O’Neal headlined more movies, recorded a platinum rap album, released a candy bar, and even released a kung fu video game.
What makes O’Neal different than other big names like Michael Jordan or LeBron James was his ability to adapt and cross his brand over to other mediums. O’Neal was almost a character unto himself. At any given time, O’Neal likely had several projects going on behind the scenes. However, of all of these projects, O’Neal took Shaq Vs. might have been the toughest.
What was ‘Shaq Vs.’?
O’Neal had a career in television that far predated his current post at TNT. From a reality television show that documented his move to the Miami Heat to appearances on Saturday Night Live, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and several other shows and specials throughout the years, O’Neal was a fixture on television. In his later career, O’Neal began to host shows during the offseason, however.
Shaq Vs. operated under a tongue-in-cheek claim that O’Neal was the greatest living athlete in the world. According to Variety, he decided to put his money where his mouth was and face off against several high-profile athletes in their sports.
He threw footballs against Ben Roethlisberger, played volleyball with Olympians Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh, batted against Albert Pujols, and swam against Michael Phelps.
In season two, O’Neal spread himself to non-athletic competitions. Although he kicked it off with a NASCAR race against Dale Earnhardt Jr., O’Neal faced magicians, chefs, and pop star Justin Bieber in a variety of challenges. According to O’Neal, the race against Earnhardt was the hardest thing he had done on the show, and the race left him exhausted.
The show let O’Neal spread his range beyond basketball even further. His natural charisma, combined with his willingness to do anything for entertainment, made him a natural way most athletes were not. The show lasted two years.
‘Shaq Vs.’ impact
O’Neal has hosted several other shows since Shaq Vs., but none let him show off his entire package of skills like Shaq Vs. did. O’Neal rarely won, finishing the show with only two decisive victories over the entire run, but the show was a hit with fans of the now-retired hooper. That same willingness to do anything is on full display as O’Neal has pivoted into studio analyst.
Although O’Neal was on the downturn of his career at this point, he was as popular as ever with the general audience. Shaq Vs. let him show that he could stay in the spotlight beyond basketball, and it proved to be a preview of a man who is still in the spotlight years after he retired from the NBA for good.