Shaq says his toughest competitors were Hakeem, Ewing, Robinson...and Rik Smits?

By Scooby Axson
November 28, 2017

Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal had his way with almost everyone who he came across during his career, but he says there are a few that gave him fits.

In a new interview on SI.com, O'Neal tells Jack McCullum the toughest guys he had to play against were fellow Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson and surprisingly former Indiana Pacers center Rik Smits.

"Rik destroyed me every time. Oh, my God. Pick-and-pop, jump hook in the post, I couldn't stop that kid. If it wasn't for his foot problems," he said. "I probably [never would] have been able to stop him. When we played them in the [2000] Finals, I had to go back to some old tape. I saw that this guy used to kill me, so now that I'm here in the Finals, I got to kill him immediately so he understands this is a different Shaq."

O'Neal did get the best of Smits and the Pacers in the 2000 NBA finals, averaging 38 points and almost 17 rebounds per game in the Los Angeles Lakers six-game triumph.

"So I had to work my way up. The only advantage I had against those guys was that they were getting older and I was still young," O'Neal adds.


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O'Neal also said he had to make up a story about how Robinson refused to give him an autograph when he was younger as motivation to try to beat him.

"I can't beat my friends up, but I can kill my enemies, so I had to make a story up in my head," O'Neal said. "It didn't work. That guy used to run me into the ground every time. Ran the floor, great body, soft touch, great team player."

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