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Under No Circumstances Should We Believe Shaq Would Have Played Five Games Back-to-Back

By Stephen Douglas
Shaquille O'Neal in street clothes.
Shaquille O'Neal in street clothes. / SCOTT NELSON/Getty Images
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Shaquille O'Neal did an interview with CNBC recently. During said interview, the TNT basketball analyst gave his thoughts on LeBron James' recent comments about the lack of rest between the '19-'20 season and this season and how it caused more injuries to star players. Via CNBC:

“When you’re living in a world where 40 million people have been laid off and I’m making $200 million, you won’t get no complaining from me,” O’Neal said. “I’d play back to back to back to back to back,” he added.

“I’m not knocking what anybody said, but me personally, I don’t complain and make excuses, because real people are working their tail off and all we gotta do is train two hours a day and then play a game for two hours at night and make a lot of money ... So my thought process is a little different.”

This is absolutely incredible coming from Shaquille O'Neal, who was infamous for playing his way into shape during the season.

Pointing out it's silly to complain about the situation of NBA players compared to regular people is completely fair, but when Shaq throws in the stuff about not complaining and playing five games back-to-back, well, come on. We all know that's not Shaq.

He appeared in fewer than 75 percent of his teams' games in eight of 19 seasons. He played in 70 or more games in just seven seasons. In 2003, O'Neal famously said, "Since I suffered the injury on company time, why shouldn't I also be able to get surgery and do recovery on company time?" 

For people in the general labor force who are working their tails off, that makes a lot of sense. For someone who literally was in the process of making $200 million, it doesn't sound like he'd play in many back-to-back-to-backs.

Shaq made $292 million in basketball salary in his career and made over $20 million per season from the '01-'02 season to the '09-'10 season. He missed 298 out of 738 potential regular season games over that nine-season stretch. So he appeared in 60 percent of possible games, which means if they really did play five games back to back, odds are, Shaq missed two of those games.

Not that it would have mattered. He consistently showed up in the postseason playing in the ninth-most playoff games of all-time (216) and won four titles. He's one of the best big men ever and at his peak he was maybe the most dominant physical presence the NBA will ever see.

It's just that he's prone to hyperbole. If the Inside the NBA crew refers to Anthony Davis as "Street Clothes" then they could refer to Shaq as "The Big Wardrobe" for all the times he was at a game and never put on his uniform. Yeah, a young Shaq could have gotten through this season unscathed, but the Shaq that existed in the last three quarters of his historic career probably would have been one of the many stars that LeBron lamenting losing during this postseason.

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