Larry Bird Can Take Some Credit For Shaquille O’Neal’s NBA Success.

To paint a broad picture, Larry Bird appears to be capable of accomplishing anything in the basketball world. The living legend was, of course, a great player. In retirement, he relocated to Indiana and achieved success as a coach and front-office executive. But were you aware that he can take some credit for Shaquille O’Neal’s NBA success?

Larry Legend, true to his word, convinced him that he was capable of conquering the Association.



Shaquille O’Neal claims that Larry Bird helped him recognize how good he truly was.


While Shaquille O’Neal has since retired from basketball and entered the media, he was once an enticing young prospect at LSU. While his talent was obvious—the center was both tall and strong but still moved with great grace—O’Neal was obviously a bit less confidence in his own abilities.


“My only Larry Bird story,” Shaq said during an Outside the NBA discussion that was archived on YouTube. Thank you, Larry Bird. Larry Bird made me realize I was a good player. It was one of those rare situations when a collegiate game preceded an NBA game, so after we played, I returned to my room and watched TV. Larry Bird stated at halftime, ‘Let me tell you something, that Shaquille O’Neal fella, if he comes out, he’s gonna be the best big man ever. And because Larry said so, I believed it.”

And, while that may seem implausible — Shaq, for all of his foibles, appears to be a staunch believer – it’s simple to see why the experience would be transformative.


From Bird’s point of view, the forward was not the type to lavish praise on others. While Larry Legend’s remarks aren’t on par with Michael Jordan’s, he can surely sling trash. To make matters worse, he had a sharp wit and refused to alter his conduct for anyone. If he assessed your game, for better or worse, he meant it.


Then, looking at Shaq’s side of the issue, we can see that the big man appreciates NBA history. Whether he says he’ll never be as talented as Bill Russell or pays for George Mikan’s burial, O’Neal respects those who came before him. Hearing Larry Bird, who had already won three NBA championships by that time, praise him was understandably encouraging.

It’s also worth remembering that confidence is important, particularly for younger athletes. We’ve heard the Diesel tell stories about getting a cold welcome to the Association and needing to prove that he could hang with the big players. With Larry Bird’s endorsement in his back pocket, O’Neal would have felt more at ease.



With that considered, Shaq clearly has considerable of talent, even at LSU, and probably didn’t require much assistance to thrive on the NBA stage. With that said, I’m not one to question O’Neal. If he says Larry Bird helped him recognize how amazing he was, I’d be willing to give the Celtics star some credit.


So add another gold star to the Celtics legend’s CV. Without him, Shaq might not have achieved the same degree of NBA success, at least not early on.


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