It’s one of the most well-known, most iconic moments in NBA history…and not just Shaq-history. It’s been 30 years now…the day O’Neal literally brought the house down – at least the rim and backboard – against the New Jersey Nets.
Back in the day, starting with his time in Orlando and then moving over to the Lakers, the young Shaquille O’Neal had a reputation for shattering backboards with his powerful dunks.
If you’ve seen any Shaq-related merchandise, especially his branded shoes, you’ve seen the iconic image of the big man with two hands on the rim and both feet swinging through the air.
Among the several instances where he unleashed the “Shaq Attack” on the backboard, the one incident that stood out was when he literally destroyed the entire basket structure against the Nets.
In a recent interview, ESPN asked O’Neal about that one particular incident, Shaq had a this to say about crashing the boards: “A lot of people ask me, when I pulled down the rim in New Jersey, was it intentional? The answer is hell yes.”
Shaq offered no further explanation, but if you look at history, there was something that triggered Shaq’s rack-destroying move in Jersey that night.
It was in a different interview, but O’Neal has also talked about the three – only three – times across his 19-year NBA career where he got dunked on. Who got that footnote in Shaq-history? “I always take pride in saying 20 years only got dunked on three times: Derrick Coleman, Michael Jordan, and Tim Perry.”
Shaq made a special mention of Tim Perry’s dunk, which he said was ‘from the baseline.’ O’Neal explained that he went up lazy, and Perry threw it down in his face. Check the video for some interesting and funny details.
But it was most likely Derrick Coleman who turned up the heat on Shaq, and spurred his desire for a back-at-you move. It happened when Shaq was just a rookie in Orlando. After the dunk on young Shaq, DC flashed O’Neal with Dikembe Mutombo’s famous finger wag.
Of course, O’Neal kept that in mind. That motivated him to play even harder against the Nets: “I was pissed off every time we played against New Jersey.”
Shaq also mentioned how embarrassed he was after DC dunked on him because his mom and dad were watching the game. So when the Magic played the Nets at the Meadowlands in April of Shaq’s rookie season, the young Diesel was looking to exact his revenge.
In the first quarter of that game, Shaq took a pass and drove past Derrick Coleman on the baseline. With only center Dwayne Schintzius to beat, Shaq powered a two-handed dunk and held on to the rim.
The sheer force of Shaq’s dunk caused the metal post supporting the backboard to break, leading the rim to fall to the floor along with the shot clock. As the stanchion collapsed, O’Neal barely avoided getting hit by it. The game ended up getting delayed by 40 minutes.
Shaq: “I came away unhurt,” he said. “And it looked good.” That incident forced the NBA to change how the basket was constructed, making NBA rims ‘Shaq-proof’ by reinforcing the steel brace and backboard stability. The NBA has also mandated every arena to have a backup goal in case something like that happens, although that is unlikely in today’s era because the NBA instituted a rule that penalizes a player who breaks the backboard with a technical foul.