Despite a career that was blighted by injuries, causing him to miss nearly 200 games in the NBA, Shaquille O’Neal, regarded by many as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, revealed he had very few, if any, regrets about his playing career.
When asked the question during a media interaction at the NBA’s pre-season tour of Abu Dhabi, the 50-year-old had a peculiar response. “If I had to pick one (regret)? I missed too many free throws. Nothing other than that, I did it my way.” In another typical ‘Shaq’ response, when asked who was the toughest player he ever faced, the American said: “Nobody,” without breaking face.
O’Neal is one of the most well-recognised names in the world of basketball, and one of the biggest attractions for fans of the sport in the UAE, where the NBA has arrived for the very first time. In a two-match pre-season series, the Milwaukee Bucks will take on the Atlanta Hawks in Abu Dhabi. The two teams are highlighted by their biggest stars: former two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo at the Bucks and Hawks’ exciting young point guard Trae Young.
O’Neal revealed what it meant for the NBA to continue expanding to all parts of the world, and the players that have made it possible. “Great players like Giannis and Trae are the reason”, he said. “For sure, I see that the young players like to play like them. The game is expanding now and that’s beautiful.”
He appealed to the fans to keep up the “playoffs-like” atmosphere for the upcoming two games, before explaining how special the experience is going to be for the hardcore faithful. “On your first time (addressing the Abu Dhabi crowd), you will be seeing fabulous players. Enjoy the experience of watching them live, it is different from anything else.”
The American was asked to weigh in on who is the greatest player of all time and was unequivocal in his response, naming Michael Jordan, the man who was responsible for much of the game’s fandom outside of North America. His favourite player to watch today happens to be reigning champions Golden State Warriors’ star point guard Steph Curry.
“We have some great shooters, and I have seen some great shooters play,” he said. “But none like him, he is phenomenal. A special player.
The writer is in Abu Dhabi on the invitation of NBA India. Watch Milwaukee Bucks vs Atlanta Hawks in Abu Dhabi on Thursday, October 6, on Sports 18 and Voot.