The NBA has always been known as a league of superstars and right from the days of Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the best players have always been the representatives or the faces of this showdown event. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were the big contenders for this title in the 80s and then once he arrived, everything was about Michael Jordan till he completed his second three-peat and retired a second time.
However, until LeBron James arrived as the Chosen One, players like Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, Shaquille O’Neal and even Vince Carter were all in the conversation as the face of the NBA. Kevin Garnett, who was himself one of the greats of the game of that era though, has no doubt in his mind about who was the face of the NBA afterJordon retired.
Speaking to Kendrick Perkins on his show KG Certified, Garnett was emphatic about Shaquille O’Neal being the face of the league in the early 2000s and it’s a very valid consideration, considering how dominant Shaq was through his career.
Replying to Kendrick Perkins question, “Was Shaq ever the face of the league?” Kevin Garnett said,
“Hell yeah, Shaq was the face of the league. You don’t think Shaq was the face of the league at one point? Soon as Mike left, it was Diesel… Shaq was the f***ing first superstar. Man, we never had no superstar rhyming and f***ing dancing. Shaq has a platinum album, he sold a million.”
Shaquille O’Neal was an unstoppable force on the Los Angeles Lakers, and no one could stop him on the court. The three-peat that he and Kobe Bryant managed to achieve is the last time any NBA team achieved it. His magnanimous personality and celebrity status were huge as well, so Garnett’s got a point about Shaq being the face of the league. It may have lasted for a short time, but O’Neal in his prime peak was the undisputed best player in the NBA.