Shaquille O’Neal was the most prominent name in the 1992 NBA Draft, yet Christian Laettner was selected to represent The USA for the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.
Over the past several decades, the USA has been the most dominant basketball-playing country. And if you’re a basketball fan, you know for a fact that the United States assembled arguably their greatest teams back in 1992 for the Barcelona Olympic Games and called it “The Dream Team“.
That team, co-led by Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, had some of the game’s biggest names – Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Scottie Pippen, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, and many more superstars.
Out of all the distinguished and established superstars on the team, there was one particular player who seemed to have been an odd pick – Christian Laettner.
A 22-year-old newly drafted young boy was picked over the likes of Shaquille O’Neal and Alonzo Mourning to play alongside some of the game’s greatest at the most prestigious international sporting event.
While the pick did make sense back then. However, Shaq, of course, was extremely “pi**ed” by the decision.
“My father and Uncle Jerome said, ‘Hey man, he won two in college, what’d you do’”: Shaquille O’Neal
At the time, Laettner was a more experienced player. Having spent all 4 years with the Duke Blue Devils, Christian had proved himself worthy of the selection by winning 2 NCAA Nation tournaments among a ridiculously long list of achievements.
Whereas, O’Neal was a dominant player having played for the LSU Tigers for 3 seasons, but never came close to winning the esteemed NCAA tournament.
O’Neal had always admitted that selecting Christian was the right thing to do.
“I was pissed off. I was jealous… But then I had to come to the realization that I was a more explosive, more powerful player, but Christian Laettner was a little bit more fundamentally sound than I was. Plus, he stayed all four years and graduated. I just think it helped me grow as a player.”
But in a recent interview, the former Lakers megastar stated how he was extremely upset and used the snub as a motivation to be better.
“I was mad, but it gave me more motivation to be better. I was very upset. But then…let me tell you something about my father and uncle Jerome. They were real, said, ‘Hey man, he won two in college, what’d you do?’”
Now, several years later, Shaq really managed to use all the motivation to establish himself as one of the most dominant players ever. Not that it would’ve really changed the outcome, but looking back, the selectors would want to change their decision of selecting Laettner over Shaq.