When a sick Michael Jordan faced a rising star Shaquille O’Neal and the two had one of the best battles in NBA History
Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan has carved a legacy of overcoming tough situations throughout his career in the NBA. One such instance arose when Jordan came face-to-face with a young prodigy named Shaquille O’ Neal. O’Neal was part of the Orlando Magic team that eliminated the Chicago Bulls from the playoffs in 1995. The two teams collided once again with Jordan feeling “under the weather” and with a slight ankle injury.
MJ rose to the occasion and led the Bulls to a 111-91 win over Shaq and the Magic. Despite 33 points, 16 rebounds, and 2 blocks from Shaq, the Bulls were set on avenging their 1995 Playoffs elimination.
The Bulls went on to sweep the Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals later in the season. “The Black Cat” scored 45 points in the game to lead the Bulls to a 106-101 win. The win sent Chicago to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1993. “I figured that I was going to come out after last year, the number change and 45 didn’t look like 23. Believe me, I didn’t have anything to do with the points I scored. Sometimes it’s ironic the way things happen,” he said after his performance.
Jordan went on to win 6 NBA Championships in his time with the Bulls, while O’Neal won 4 with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Shaquille O’Neal was often thought of as the successor to Michael Jordan
Jordan returned to the NBA after announcing his first retirement to pursue a career in baseball. Upon his return, he encountered the youngster for the first time. After being knocked down to the floor in their duel, Shaq helped him up. This was a turning point, as per Jordan as he was less intimidated by the “Big Diesel.”
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) February 15, 2018
Shaq went on to dominate the league after leaving the Magic to join the Lakers. He averaged 23.7 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in 1,207 regular season games. However, many fans believed that O’Neal would carry on the charge set by Michael Jordan.
“His Airness” will forever go down as one of the best players in NBA history, while Shaq couldn’t reach the same heights set by Jordan in the NBA.