Shaquille O’Neal is among the most dominant big men to ever play professional basketball, but what you might not realize is that young Shaq idolized none other than Patrick Ewing, even wearing number 33 in high school and college because of the legendary Knicks’ center.
The Knicks, of course, are in the middle of a fight for playoff seeding with just a few games to go in the regular season. Thus, there are obviously issues of more imminent importance than how Shaq feels about Ewing, such as when the Knicks will clinch a spot in the top six in the Eastern Conference (their magic number is one), or whether Tom Thibodeau will change his stripes and bench his starting point guard (probably not, though he has significantly lowered Elfrid Payton’s minutes of late).
But still, stop and think about it for a second. Did you know how much Shaq looked up to Ewing?
If you didn’t, you do now. Ewing was a mystery guest on the latest episode of The Big Podcast with Shaq, and the four-time NBA champion and three-time finals MVP couldn’t stop gushing about his love for the Big Fella, which dates back to Ewing’s days at Georgetown
Not only did Shaq reveal that he wore the number 33 in high school and college because of the Hoya Destroya, he outright told Ewing that “you were always my favorite player.”
This isn’t actually the first time Shaq has professed his love for Ewing. A few years back, he got emotional on NBA TV talking about how, although Ewing doesn’t always get mentioned when talking about the best players ever, he’s “one of the greats.”
This is all important because Ewing definitely doesn’t get quite the amount of shine he deserves, likely due to a mixture of factors, including that he never won a championship, and that he played in an era which both featured Michael Jordan and was a golden age for centers.
Make no mistake though; Ewing was great. We’ve covered his greatness in myriad ways, like exploring how great he was in the postseason, or unabashedly praising his position as all-time scoring leader in franchise history.
But hearing Shaq praise Ewing like a deity? That hits home a little harder than a blogger typing words on his laptop while looking up statistics on basketball-reference.com. Shaq was truly dominant, an actual colossus playing against mortal humans. Starting in his rookie season, O’Neal posted at least 20 points per game for 14 straight years. Over the course of that 14-year prime, he averaged 26.3 points (58% from the field), 11.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.5 blocks. His accolades speak for themselves.
Hate on Shaq as an analyst all you want. His voice is sometimes so low that it’s difficult to hear what he’s saying, and he can be as stubborn as anyone when it comes to talking about the modern NBA. But he’s a legend’s legend. And he looks up to Patrick Ewing. Pretty cool.
The whole interview is great, and you oughta listen to it in its entirety.
They discuss everything from their top five Knicks of all time (among Shaq’s choices: “the guy who uses the big crazy words” on Knicks broadcasts) to the current Knicks (Ewing loves Tom Thibodeau is says Randle is a “throwback type of player”), as well as why Ewing never smiled at Shaq, shook his hand or did anything nice while they were both playing (Ewing says that on the court, he became his “alter ego” and just wanted to compete).
Here’s the link. Ewing first comes on around 4:50, and his segment ends at about the 23:40 mark. Enjoy! Or don’t. Honestly, it’s your call.