NBA Legends: Shaquille O’Neal. Plus, Tips to Play The Center Position in Basketball

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The center position in basketball is one of the five positions in a typical lineup. Also known as the '5,' the center for basketball is usually played by the tallest and most physical players on the court, making their role on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor critical. One of the best centers and all around basketball players of all time is Shaquille Rashaun O'neal better known as Shaq or Shaq Diesel. Through his amazing career, he was the perfect example of a center and helped to innovate the position. Here are some of his career highlights as a professional basketball player and how to play the position.

Where is Shaq from?

Philadelphia 76ers v Miami Heat

Shaq was born in Newark, New Jersey to Lucille O’Neal and Joe Toney. O’Neal’s parents were both over six foot which meant there was no surprise when Shaq was six foot six at age 13. His stepfather was a military worker so he traveled around until finally settling in San Antonio, Texas where he played high school ball.

Where did Shaq go to college?

Shaq received many D1 offers in high school but settled on Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, LA. While at LSU, he was a two-time All American and a two-time SEC player of the year and in his final season won the NCAA College Player of the Year. His performances at LSU were so legendary that he was inducted into the LSU Hall of Fame in 2007.

Where was Shaq drafted?

Shaq was drafted first overall in the 1992 NBA draft to the Orlando Magic. He would make an immediate impact his rookie season, averaging 23 points, 13 rebounds, and over three blocks a game. His performance was so great that he won the NBA Rookie of the Year award. The next year, he would lead the Magic to their first appearance in the playoffs and would continue to lead them there year after year. In 1995, they beat the Michael Jordan led Chicago Bulls and made it to the NBA Finals. However, they would lose to the Houston Rockets, who were led by one of the greatest players of all time in Hakeem Olajuwon.

When did Shaq play for the Lakers?

In 1996, Shaq was one of the few NBA players selected to play for an Olympic gold medal in the Olympics. He felt that in spite of all his success in Florida, he wasn’t a valued member of the Magic basketball team. So on the first day of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Shaq announced that he would be joining Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. Shaq and Kobe would form one of the greatest duos in NBA history.

Shaq would win his first MVP award in 2000 while also winning the regular season scoring title in addition to NBA Most Valuable Player. It would all culminate in an NBA championship in 2001, with a five game series win over the Philadelphia 76ers. The Lakers would win three consecutive titles and Shaq was Finals MVP in all three. The relationship would sour and O’Neal would demand a trade.

What other teams did Shaq play for?

Shaq was traded to the Miami Heat where he would team up with Dwyane Wade. In his first year, he would make the All-NBA first team and be runner up for MVP. The superstar would have another great year in 2005 and would win the NBA finals giving him four NBA titles. More disagreements with the Heat, though, would lead to him getting traded to the Phoenix Suns. He would play solid ball for the Suns and make his final NBA All-Star Game in 2009. To cut costs, he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers where he would team up with LeBron James. O’Neal signed with the Boston Celtics in 2010 and retired in 2011. He would be selected to the Basketball Hall of Fame post-retirement.

What does Shaq do now?

In spite of his retirement, the Big Aristotle is still a big name in the NBA field. He currently resides as a studio host for Inside the NBA on TNT along with superstar and rival Charles Barkley. In addition, O’Neal is notable for his acting career that started with Blue Chips in 1994. He has starred in movies like Grown Ups 2, Kazaam, The Lego Movie and more. He also is a rapper under the name DJ Diesel and a video game star with the hit series Shaq Fu.

Offensive Skills for Basketball Centers

Being the biggest player on the team, the center has a significant role in a team's offense. These skills are extremely important to have as a center for basketball, and should be incorporated into each practice and workout.

  1. Finishing around the rim​ Being the tallest player on the floor, centers will typically live in the paint and around the basket. Centers must be able to consistently put the ball in the basket with both hands, even while playing through contact.
  2. Use body to get into position​ In order to finish around the rim, centers must first make themselves available to receive a pass. To create a passing lane for other players to get them the ball, a center must use their size to physically maneuver around defenders, and catch the ball when it is thrown to them.
  3. Perform various post moves​ Once a center receives the ball in the post, it is important that they have a wide variety of post moves they are comfortable with using in order to score. The move that is used will be based upon reading the defender's position and knowing what will work in certain situations, and this skill is only 0btained through lots of practice.
  4. Effectively use pump fakes​ A critical part of almost all post moves is a pump fake. A proper pump fake involves looking at the rim and replicating the form in which you would shoot the ball, except never letting go. If the defender falls for the pump fake, centers can pivot around them and get a much easier, uncontested layup.
  5. Make free throws​ Being in constant physical battles down in the paint, centers get fouled more than any other player when they have the ball; therefore, the ability to consistently make free throws is extremely important for a center to have.

Defensive Skills for Basketball Centers

As important as a center is on the offensive end of the floor, they are every bit as critical on the defensive end as well. These skills are necessary to be the best center for basketball.

  1. Be physical with the opposing center​ Knowing that the opposing team also has a big, physical center, it is vital that a center has the ability to be physical and impose their strength on the other. By doing this, they can prevent the other teams center from getting easy shots around the basket, especially since no other players on the team are big enough to challenge the opposing center.
  2. Rebound the basketball​ Being the biggest player on the court, a center must have good instincts in reading the ball off the rim and reacting to where it is going so that they can secure the rebound for their team.
  3. Block shots​ Being the last line of defense (usually) between an offensive player and the basket, a center should possess the ability to swat the ball either out of the opposing players' hand or or out of the air. A big part of blocking shots is having the ability to read the offensive player in a matter of a split second, and instantly react to what they are doing as they get closer to the rim.
  4. Box out when the ball is shot​ When an offensive player shoots the ball, it is important that the center is able to box out the opposing center so that they prevent offensive rebounds and have an easier path to the ball when it comes off of the rim. This is done by the center physically positioning themselves between the opposing center and the basket.