Shaquille O’Neal is a basketball icon. The 7-1 300-pound center was larger than life figure. He was one of the most dominant forces to ever set foot inside the NBA basketball court. O’Neal was also a four-time NBA champion, three-time Finals MVP, and one-time NBA MVP.
But the Big Diesel couldn’t have achieved all those alone. Because he also played for a total of six teams during his NBA career, O’Neal played with a lot of great players who helped him reach his goals.
Let’s take a look at the greatest players that Shaq ever played with in the NBA:
No doubt, the greatest player that Shaq ever played with in the NBA was Kobe Bryant. Kobe joined O’Neal in Los Angeles after the 1996 NBA Draft and quickly the two formed a basketball bond that would make them one of the best teammate duos in the history of the NBA.
Bryant would help O’Neal put the Lakers back on the basketball map. Together they won three straight NBA titles from 2000-02 with O’Neal winning three Finals MVP and one NBA MVP during that period. This period was the most successful of Shaq’s career and for sure, he couldn’t have won all those accolades without Bryant.
After he feuded with Kobe, Shaq was traded to the Miami Heat in 2004. While he would retain his All-Star status in South Beach, Wade was the star in Miami. With a dominant big man playing alongside Wade, the Miami Heat turned into serious title contenders and in 2006, Wade and O’Neal helped the Heat win their first NBA title.
Wade dislocated his shoulder in 2007 and it was O’Neal who helped the Heat clinch a playoff berth that year. However, the Heat lost to the Bulls in the first round of the playoffs, the first time that O’Neal had not gone past round one in 13 years. He struggled in 2008 and was traded to the Phoenix Suns.
Shaquille O’Neal also became a teammate of LeBron James in Cleveland. After a short stop in Phoenix, Shaq found himself traded to the Land where he teamed up with a young LeBron James. O’Neal’s first words when he arrived in Cleveland were “Ring for the King”. Cleveland was slowly becoming a playoff contender when Shaq arrived but he was too old already to make a real difference in the postseason.
He took on a smaller role than he did in his previous seasons and averaged career-lows in almost all statistical categories. Still, his imposing presence helped the Cavs advance to the second round of the playoffs where they would lose to the Boston Celtics. After one season, the Diesel was on the move again.
After things went downhill in Miami, the Phoenix Suns acquired Shaq in a 2008 trade that was supposed to help Phoenix get past the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs. The Suns played with a small line-up and were having a hard time dealing with Tim Duncan. O’Neal matched well with Duncan in the first round of the 2008 playoffs but the Suns lost in five games.
The following season, Shaq looked rejuvenated playing alongside an elite point guard in Nash who would feed him the ball right where he wanted. He had one of his best seasons in years, make the All-Star team again, and win All-Star game co-MVP with Kobe Bryant. At the end of the season, O’Neal would make the All-NBA third team.
The only reason why we put Karl Malone after Steve Nash was the fact that when the Mailman teamed up with Shaq, he was already in the tail-end of his NBA career. Malone and John Stockton were like the Kobe and Shaq of the 90s. They led Utah to the playoffs in every season they played together. The Jazz made back to back trips to the NBA Finals, only to be defeated by Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls.
With his career about to end, Malone decided to transfer to the Los Angeles Lakers. L.A. had a super team in 2004 with Kobe, Shaq, Malone, and Gary Payton. Malone became the third option in LaLa Land and they breezed past the regular season and the Western Conference before they were ambushed by the Detroit Pistons in the 2004 NBA Finals.
Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen
O’Neal tried his best to win a fifth NBA ring late in his career because his former teammate Kobe Bryant already had won five in Los Angeles. So Shaq decided to join the Boston Celtics who beat the Lakers in 2007. O’Neal joined the likes of Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce in Beantown but his body was far from the old dominant Shaq.
O’Neal played a backup role and he missed several games due to an assortment of leg, knee, calf, and Achilles injuries. He would get cortisone shots to help him play through the injuries. Boston would make the 2011 playoffs but O’Neal missed the first round. He played two games in the second round but the Celtics were booted out by the Miami Heat.
Before Shaquille O’Neal had Kobe in Los Angeles, he had Penny Hardaway in Orlando. Hardaway was the point guard whom the Magic drafted to pair with O’Neal. Together, they became a young duo that took the NBA by storm. The duo helped the Magic to a 50-32 record in Hardaway’s rookie season and they made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
During the 1994-95 season, Hardaway helped O’Neal become the league’s top scorer. Shaq would finish second behind David Robinson in the NBA MVP balloting and the young pair would lead the Orlando Magic to the 1995 NBA Finals where they lost to the Houston Rockets. Hardaway would suffer serious injuries that would derail his budding NBA career and this led to O’Neal’s departure from the Magic Kingdom.
Dennis Rodman was the rebounding monster who helped the Chicago Bulls win three NBA titles during the 1990s. Rodman was also a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year who helped the Detroit Pistons win back to back titles in 1989 and 1990.
During his twilight years, Rodman played briefly with the Los Angeles Lakers. To be more exact, he played a total of 23 games for the Purple and Gold during the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season and became teammates with Shaq. Although the Worm was one of Shaq’s greatest teammates, O’Neal never experienced what it was to play alongside a prime Rodman.
Grant Hill was like Anfernee Hardaway. He was a young superstar destined for greatness. But like Penny, Hill suffered serious injuries that completely turned his NBA career around. Unlike Hardaway though, Hill worked his way back to 100% health and was able to play several healthy seasons and extend his career longer.
Hill also ended up playing with Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire in Phoenix. Hill was the third force in Mike D’Antoni’s team and they picked up Shaq in mid-seasons to get help in the playoffs, That gambit didn’t work out as the Suns never won an NBA title.
Rajon Rondo was the passing genius who bonded Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen in Boston. He was a pure point guard whose court vision and play-making skills were key during Boston’s title run in 2007. Rondo was a budding star in Boston while O’Neal was a veteran who was looking for a free ride to a fifth title.
Whenever they played together, Rondo loved to find Shaq for the assist. The Diesel was so big a target that Rondo could find easily. The two connected on many highlight plays during their short time together in Boston.