Shaquille O’Neal, the legendary basketball figure, recently shared a fascinating anecdote about the time he first met his idol, Julius Erving, during his junior year at LSU. O’Neal, a promising player destined for the pros, had a memorable encounter with Dr. J that left him in awe.
Recalling the incident on The Big Podcast with Shaq, O’Neal reminisced about skipping an early morning class, leading to a unique encounter with Coach Dale Brown’s unconventional disciplinary tactics. In a surprising turn of events, O’Neal found Julius Erving waking him up in his room.
O’Neal recounted the moment: “I was sleeping and Dr. J was in my room when he put his hand on my chest and he woke me up. That was my first time physically meeting him. He was in my room and he said, ‘Hey man, Coach Brown said meet him at the track.’ I was like, ‘What?’ And when I looked up, I thought I was dead, bro.”
The reason behind Erving’s visit to O’Neal’s room was an attempt to secure a sneaker deal with Converse. Although Erving recognized O’Neal’s potential, he couldn’t convince the young star to sign with Converse. Ultimately, O’Neal inked a deal with Reebok in 1992.
In the podcast episode, Erving and O’Neal also critiqued modern NBA players for avoiding the dunk contest, highlighting a shift in priorities and branding concerns over competition. Erving emphasized that the reluctance of top players to participate diminishes the overall quality of the dunk contest.
O’Neal echoed Erving’s sentiments, expressing disappointment in current stars’ avoidance of the competition. He emphasized the importance of paying homage and showing respect, citing Erving as the reason he initially tuned in to watch the dunk contest.
Erving raised a valid point about the contemporary stars’ unwillingness to engage in the dunk contest, attributing it to concerns about protecting their brand and avoiding competition. O’Neal, appreciating Erving’s influence on his career, emphasized the lack of homage and respect among current players.
Interestingly, the conversation shifted to Erving’s previous exclusion of O’Neal from his list of the top 10 players of all time. Surprisingly, O’Neal displayed no resentment, acknowledging Erving’s status and stating, “He can say what he wants, and nobody should say a damn thing about it.” O’Neal then shared his own top 10 list, featuring basketball legends such as Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and others.
In essence, the podcast offered a glimpse into Shaquille O’Neal’s admiration for Julius Erving, their perspectives on the evolution of the dunk contest, and O’Neal’s gracious response to Erving’s top 10 list.