Statistics: 29.7 PPG, 13.6 RPG, 3.8 APG, 0.5 SPG, 3 BPG, 57.4% FG
Team: Los Angeles Lakers (67-15)
Accomplishments: NBA champion, Finals MVP, MVP, All-NBA First Team, All-Defensive Second Team, All-Star, All-Star Game MVP, led the league in scoring and field goal percentage.
That’s right, the greatest single season in NBA history belongs to the Big Diesel, Shaquille O’Neal.
Shaq was the most dominating player since Michael Jordan, but this season was perhaps even greater than anything MJ did in one year. From start to finish, O’Neal was absolutely unstoppable.
He fell one first-place vote shy of being the only unanimous MVP in league history (Allen Iverson inexplicably received one vote) and dominated the Finals like no other. He led the league in scoring, field goal percentage, PER, Offensive and Defensive Win Shares and Win Shares per 48.
O’Neal was never known to be a tremendous shot blocker, but he averaged three blocks per game in the regular season and finished second in the Defensive Player of the Year voting. He’s an underrated passer who averaged 3.8 assists from the center position and for a guy who never led the league in rebounding, 13.6 a game is pretty darn good.
But the true measure of Shaq’s dominance transcends even the most complex statistics. O’Neal was literally unstoppable in his prime, and there’s no better example of this than in the ’00 season.
He collapsed defenses which created easier scoring opportunities for teammates, he demanded double teams at all times and he was an imposing force in the paint on both sides of the court. He carried the Lakers to a league high 67 wins and did so as possibly the most likeable and entertaining superstar in the league.
In the playoffs, Shaq averaged 30.7 PPG, 15.4 RPG and 3.1 APG. He upped that to 38 PPG, 16.7 RPG, 2.3 APG and 2.7 BPG shooting at above 61 percent from the field in one of the best Finals performances in NBA history.
In the regular season, O’Neal exceeded 40 points on nine different occasions, including a 61 point, 23 rebound outburst against the Clippers on his birthday. In 23 playoff games, Shaq dropped 40 or more five times including three 40 point nights in six Finals games.
However, Shaq’s Achilles’ heel was free throw shooting. This was the only true evidence that he was a mortal human being in the year 2000 and it was eventually exploited by teams that adopted the Hack-a-Shaq technique. The true measure of dominance is when your opponents have to foul you because they’re afraid of the alternative.
There are simply not enough words to fully elaborate on what was the most dominant season in NBA history. Just know that for 102 games in 1999 and 2000, Shaquille O’Neal played at a rare level that has rarely been matched before or since.