Shaq Shines Spotlight on OKC’s Rising Star

January 17, 2024

You’ve seen the internet meme, right? The young man looking over his shoulder to catch a good glimpse of a passing pretty girl… all the while holding hands with another lady, probably his girlfriend? Been around for a million years, in internet time. Still funny today. 

Someone with some decent Photoshop skills used that same pic, only the man’s head has been replaced by Shaq’s… the “girlfriend” is Luka Doncic, and the pretty new lady, getting all the attention, is up-and-coming Oklahoma City star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, also known as SGA.

On a recent edition of Inside the NBA, Shaq talked about his appreciation for Gilgeous-Alexander. How much appreciation? Enough that O’Neal is now – at least this week – ranking SGA above one of his other favorite big men, Dallas Mavericks point guard Luka Doncic

Luka had a great season last year, even though his Mavs underperformed as a team. This year, he’s crushing it again, averaging 31.3 points per game so far. Any conversation of the greats of the present-day game always includes Doncic.

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Still, Shaq has his reasons for liking Gilgeous-Alexander. If he had to choose between the two right now, Shaq says he’s taking SGA: “I’m gonna have to take (Gilgeous-Alexander). Luka is a fabulous player but this kid? He plays the right way [and] gets his teammates involved. … I’m taking him right now. He’s a hell of a player right now.”

Indeed, Gilgeous-Alexander – without question – the best season of his young career. His name is on the short list of favorites for the NBA’s MVP award… right up there with Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets and reigning MVP Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers.

SGA currently ranks third in league scoring, averaging 31.3 points per game. He leads the league in steals with 2.3 per game. Doncic is just ahead, with a juicy average of 33.6 points per game.

Team-wise, the Mavs are still struggling. Currently, they’re four games back of the Thunder. OKC is second in the west right now, behind the Minnesota Timberwolves. 

So it seems O’Neal values SGA’s team play, getting everyone involved. Still, Doncic is a very good distributor as well, so perhaps Shaq has some other things he likes about Gilgeous-Alexander’s play recently. 

Interestingly, SGA and Doncic entered the league in the 2018 NBA Draft – which also brought Atlanta star Trae Young into the league. All three were picked as the best guards to go in that draft. It’s taken a little time, but now it seems SGA is catching up to Doncic and Young in grabbing his share of hoops headlines, and attention from our man Shaq.

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