Shaq praises esports pros, recognizes them as real athlete
Former NBA star and Basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal has grabbed esports media attention these past few days regarding his stance on esports professional players.
The four-time NBA champion weighed in on some people’s notion to discredit the esports pros, saying they are not “real athletes” because esports players spend their time sitting in front of computers, not in the field like the traditional sports athletes.
Shaq’s take on esports
“I do [consider pro esports players as athletes]. I wanna commend you guys, and I’m proud of you guys,” Shaq said in a recent interview with Full Squad Gaming’s Jake Lucky.
Jake Lucky is currently touring around the United States with The Full Squad tour bus for the next two weeks. Lucky’s tour has a purpose to talk and meet with influential people in the gaming and esports community and discuss its effect on current social culture.
O’Neal continued by saying the definition of an athlete “means different things,” but he certainly agrees that it all comes down to mindset.
“Fifteen percent of the game is physical… everything else is mental,” Shaq said. “If you guys say you’re athletes, I believe you, because I can’t do what you do.”
Former Los Angeles Lakers superstar turned sports pundits then compared esports to traditional sports by how long athletes can sustain their performance in professional sports such as NBA and NFL.
Shaq also added that competitors from both respective fields have a limited period of time during which they can compete.
“You guys don’t really have a long life shelf, I think it’s what, three to five, five to six years. You know, same thing with NBA and you know NFL, so yes, you guys are athletes,” the 15-time NBA All-Star said.
Back in 2009, Shaq participated in a reality television show titled _Shaq Vs._ The show is centered around O’Neal, who at that time, proclaimed himself as “the greatest athlete” and challenged several top athletes in their own respective sports, including five-time Olympian and arguably the greatest swimmer of all time, Michael Phelps.
During that TV show, Shaq recalled his experience as “the hardest sh*t I’ve ever done in my life.”
Shaquille O’Neal spent his professional career for 19 years dating back to when he was drafted by the Orlando Magic in the 1992 NBA Draft as the first overall pick. He won Rookie of the Year in 1992–93 and took the Magic to the 1995 NBA Finals.
Shaq then signed with the Los Angeles Lakers where he and the late Kobe Bryant dominated the league and won three consecutive championships in 2000-2002. O’Neal moved to the Miami Heat in 2004, and his fourth NBA championship followed in 2006. Shaq last played for the Boston Celtics in the 2010-11 season before announcing his retirement from the NBA.
Shaq was one of the first traditional sports athletes to dip his toe in the esports community. In 2016, he decided to invest in NRG Esports. The 50-year-old also took part in 2018 ELEAGUE’s Street Fighter 5 Invitational Celebrity Showdown alongside MLB’s Jimmy Rollins and WWE’s Eva Marie.