Shaquille O'Neal: Early 2000s Lakers Would 'Easily' Beat Current Warriors Team

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistDecember 13, 2018

Shaquille O'Neal attends the world premiere of
Andy Kropa/Associated Press

The modern-day Golden State Warriors are one of the best teams in NBA history and are striving for a three-peat this season, but the centerpiece of the last squad to three-peat doesn't think they would beat his team.

"I think we'd easily win," Shaquille O'Neal said when asked to compare the Warriors with his Los Angeles Lakers, per Scott Gleeson of USA Today. "Other people might feel different, they (the Warriors) might feel different. But we had one of the best teams of all time in 2001 when we went 15-1 in the playoffs. We would've gone [15-0], but A.I. (Hall of Famer Allen Iverson) went off on us and stepped over (former Laker) Ty Lue."

Those Lakers won three straight titles from 2000 through 2002, and Allen Iverson's Philadelphia 76ers prevented them from going undefeated in the 2001 playoffs with one win in the Finals.

O'Neal was also asked where he stood on the debate between Michael Jordan and LeBron James as the best player of all time, and he didn't take a hard stand, pointing out "we're talking about two different eras."

His confidence in the hypothetical matchup with the Warriors stands out because he would represent the most interesting dynamic.

The Hall of Famer, four-time champion and 14-time All-NBA selection was one of the most difficult players in league history to stop without swarming him with double- and triple-teams or simply resorting to fouling him. Some of the NBA's biggest centers in the 1990s and 2000s couldn't handle him at his peak, and the Warriors often thrive with small-ball approaches.

For as formidable a defender as Draymond Green is with his physicality and versatility, having him to match up with O'Neal as a de facto big man would be a tall ask.

On the flip side, O'Neal would have to run up and down the floor to deal with Golden State's pace and would surely be forced away from the paint in matchups with Green or other forwards. It is as difficult to envision him stopping Green or Kevin Durant on the perimeter as it is predicting the Warriors would slow him in the paint.

NBA fans will never know who would win, but O'Neal doesn't even think it would be close.

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