Michael Jordan’s retirement in 1993 had rookie Shaquille O’Neal shocked. The two legends had some iconic battles on the hardwood, with Shaq being the only one to defeat his Airness in a playoffs series between 1991-98.
Michael Jordan’s retirement sent shockwaves around the league. In 1993, after having his first 3-peat, the superstar held a press conference at Berto Center, announcing his retirement from the game of basketball.
MJ’s decision not only brought sorrow among the Bulls fans but also a young Shaquille O’Neal. Jordan was at the peak of his prime when he decided to hang his boots. Thus nobody understood as to why his Airness would make such a call.
Many believed the constant media attention and constant spotlight took MJ’s love for the game away. MJ’s father’s tragic death impacted him severely, which took him further away from the sport.
Shaq, who would make his NBA debut in the 1992-93 season, was taken aback by MJ’s decision to quit playing ball. The Big Diesel was crowned rookie of the year when Jordan torched his first 3-peat.
Shaquille O’Neal was saddened when he learned Michael Jordan was retiring in 1993.
The Big Diesel was a highly touted 1st round pick in the 1992 NBA Draft selected by the Orlando Magic. Shaq was a physical specimen none like the league had ever seen before. Standing above seven feet, O’Neal was an unstoppable force, especially in the paint.
During his rookie year, Shaq squared off against MJ four times. Though the Bulls held a 3-1 record against the Magic, Big Diesel put the league on notice with his noteworthy performances, averaging 24.5 points, 15.3 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks on a 66.1% shooting from the field.
Thus when the Bulls superstar decided to retire in 1993, Shaq couldn’t fathom him leaving the game at the peak of his prime.
“I was shocked, I just want to say I miss playing with him,” said O’Neal
Via: Chicago sports historian Jack M Silverstein
Jordan would make his return towards the end of the 1994-95 season. The Bulls would then face the Orlando Magic in the eastern conference semi-finals, with Shaq and co shocking the world, eliminating the Bulls in six games.
O’Neal averaged 24.3 points, 13.2 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks against a rusty Jordan. However, the Bulls would get their revenge the following season, sweeping the Magic in the playoffs. Jordan averaged 31.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.5 steals, and 1.8 blocks on a 47.7% shooting from the field.
Shaquille O’Neal is the only player between 1991-98 to defeat Michael Jordan in a playoff series. Though MJ was coming off a one-and-a-half-year hiatus, one cannot deny Shaq was something special on the court.