Shaquille O'Neal truly has one of the most decorated careers in NBA history. Four NBA titles and a plethora of individual accolades populate his hefty resume. Apart from the hardware, the Big Diesel also got to play with three of the greatest players in their prime: Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, and LeBron James.
In his book "Shaq Uncut: My Story," O'Neal touched upon the difference between the three stars. He noted that he was least demanding on LeBron James among the three.
"I always tell people in terms of being tough on the young stars, I was a 10 with Kobe and a 4 with DWade and a 1 with LeBron. I didn't say anything to LeBron—didn't have to. He had it figured out at a very young age," Shaq wrote.
Shaq joined the Cleveland Cavaliers at the tail-end of his career. After winning a title in Miami, experts still believed Shaq still had in it him to guide a younger team to a championship. A 25-year-old LeBron James was already on top of the basketball world by the 2009-10 NBA season. All he needed was a ring on his finger. And the organization believed the Big Diesel was that one missing piece.
The Wine and Gold did pretty well with Shaq in the fold. They notched a 61-21 record — the best in the league. James also won his second straight MVP trophy. Perhaps this is the main reason why Shaq did not get into James' ear in his lone stint there. He noticed that James was not just your ordinary youngster who wanted to stuff the stat sheet or chase individual awards. Instead, James was all about winning the title and making those around him better.
Shaq added that he was not too hard on Wade because he was not as resilient as Kobe. This is an interesting point since O'Neal joined the Heat in Wade's second year, who was then 22 years old. Shaq joined the Los Angeles Lakers when Kobe was in his rookie year. Bryant had just turned 18 then.
"D-Wade was a good listener. I wasn't in his face like with Kobe. Instead of getting on him I'd say, "Hey, dawg, maybe you should try this," Shaq wrote.
Shaq did not explain why he was more nagging on Kobe. Is it because Bryant fought back, and therefore Shaq subconsciously retaliated? Or maybe because he saw something in Kobe — that Mamba Mentality was already brewing deep inside him.
A look at O'Neal's career before joining LA reveals he had a pretty good stint with the Orlando Magic. With O'Neal's guidance, the team became a force in the East and made it to the NBA Finals and the Eastern Conference Finals. The fact that these trips did not yield any titles might have made him desperate to win. And when he spotted Bryant's searing talent, O'Neal instinctively knew that he needed to unleash it by any means.