Last night Shaquille O’Neal scored his 28,000th career point. By doing this, Shaq joined Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan, and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in NBA history to score that many points.
When Shaq was asked about the milestone, he responded like his usual funny self. He said that he missed about 5,000 free throws along the way, and if he had made just half of those, they would be talking about 30,000 instead of 28,000.
But through all the laughing, I realized just how serious that statement actually was. Without Shaq’s free throw issues throughout his career, he might have had no apparent weakness in his game. Of course he never really had an outside touch, but that never needed to be a part of his game because of his size and strength. Free throws, though, WERE a vital part of his game, and he just never seemed to figure them out. (Hence, the Hack-A-Shaq approach created by Don Nelson. No approach could ever force Shaq to shoot jumpers all night.)
I guess every Superman has his kryptonite. For Shaq, it was always the pesky free throw. It’s pretty funny when you think about it. The toughest guy to defend, possibly in league history, was regulated by something as simple as a FREE throw. Since Shaq was the toughest player to defend, and free throws prevented him from 2,000 points, does that make the free throw line the best defender of all-time? Hmmm… it makes me wonder.