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Shaq: Michael Jordan Is the GOAT, 'Paved the Way' for Current Generation

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMay 8, 2020

ORLANDO, FL - 1993:  Shaquille O'Neal #32 of the Orlando Magic poses with Michael Jordan #23 of the Chicago Bulls prior to playing an NBA game circ 1993 at the TD WAterhouse Centre in Orlando, Florida.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 1993 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

Hall of Fame center Shaquille O'Neal threw his support behind Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan as the greatest NBA player in history.

Shaq explained Friday during an appearance on ESPN's Get Up why Jordan deserves the basketball GOAT label.

"Because Michael paved the way for all the great guys we have now; 6-0 in the Finals without a legitimate big man," O'Neal said. "Went through a lot, took a year off, came back and won three more in a row. He's definitely the greatest player."

He added: "Scottie Pippen made a great point. You can't say, 'I'm the greatest player.' You have to let your peers and everyone else say who the greatest player is."

Get Up @GetUpESPN

"[Michael Jordan] is definitely the greatest player. ... You can't say 'I'm the greatest player,' you have to let your peers and everyone else say who the greatest player is." @SHAQ weighs in on the ๐Ÿdebate. https://t.co/FcbIy6QSkU

The latter remark is likely in reference to LeBron James, who argued on ESPN's More Than An Athlete in 2018 that his 2016 title with the Cleveland Cavaliers moved him to the top of the all-time list.

"That one right there made me the greatest player of all time," James said, adding:

"That's what I felt. I was super, super ecstatic to win one for Cleveland because of the 52-year drought. ... The first wave of emotion was when everyone saw me crying, like, that was all for 52 years of everything in sports that's gone on in Cleveland. And then after I stopped, I was like -- that one right there made you the greatest player of all time.

"Everybody was just talking -- how [the Warriors] were the greatest team of all time, like it was the greatest team ever assembled. And for us to come back, you know, the way we came back in that fashion, I was like, 'You did, you did something special.' That's probably one of the only times in my career I felt like, oh, s---, like you did something special. I haven't had, really had time, to really, like, sit back and think, but that ... that was a moment."

James, a three-time NBA champion and four-time league MVP, still falls short of Jordan (six titles and five MVPs) in those key categories, but he hasn't shied away from his GOAT quest.

"My motivation is this ghost I'm chasing," he told Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated in 2016. "The ghost played in Chicago."

Meanwhile, O'Neal also projected on Get Up that Jordan would "average 45" points if he played in the modern NBA.

Although MJ's greatness has never really been in question, it's been brought back to the forefront because of The Last Dance, an ESPN documentary that looks back at the 1990s Bulls dynasty.

James can still add to his caseโ€”he's playing at an MVP level at age 35 and is part of a championship-contending Los Angeles Lakers squadโ€”but it appears Jordan has the majority of support in the "greatest of all time" conversation, especially among his '90s contemporaries.