The Orlando Magic‘s first pick in the 1992 NBA Draft out of LSU, Shaquille O’Neal revolutionized the NBA with his Superman strength and size.
A four time NBA Champion in stints with the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat, the 15-time NBA All-Star and 2000 NBA league MVP retired from basketball following the 2010-11 NBA season after a successful 19-year career.
The Big Aristotle had career averages of 23.7 points and 10.9 rebounds per contest.
With his Superman strength will always and forever be Shaq’s asset on the court, free throws was his cryptonite.
O’Neal has a career 52.7 percent free throw percentage and in fact, the “Hack a Shaq” method was used to counteract O’Neal’s post dominance in his prime.
Appearing on the Heavy Live With Scoop B Show, actress, Nicole “Hoopz” Alexander, told me that she and Shaq worked endless hours on free throw shooting.
“Yeah, I’m not even a free throw shooter,” Alexander, Shaq’s ex-fiance told me on the Show.
“But, you gotta make ‘em from there. So if you go back and check the stats on the last year that he played for Boston, his free throw percentage went up because we were in that house on the court all the time making him shoot free throws. I’m like, ‘Nope. Keep shooting them!’ Go check the percentages. It went up. I am responsible for that; I would have to say so. This will be a good thing to look back at – and you know what? Get Shaq on here and you ask him how many times we had to shoot free throws because we were in there and we had to work on them. Because this is the thing, in his last year or whatever, he couldn’t be as dominant as he was. That was kind of going down towards… he just couldn’t. So you gotta make up for it somewhere else or whatever so get the points standing there. We worked on it a lot.”
In his lone season with the Boston Celtics, Shaq shot 55.7 percent from the line. He only played in 37 games that season and dealt with a persistent Achilles injury.
Taking cursory look at his career: His best year from the line came during the 2002-03 season as a member of the Lakers where he shot 62.2% from the line.
During the 2008-09 season with the Phoenix Suns, Shaq shot 59.5% and during the 2001-02 season with LA he shot 55.5%.
While Shaq and the free throw line weren’t the best of friends, it’s worth noting that he was far from the worse. Late great, Wilt Chamberlain had a 51.1% career average, retired Detroit Pistons big man Ben Wallace shot 41.5% from the line, current Laker Dwight Howard and Naismith Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman were only slightly better than Shaq.
Howard currently shoots 56.5% from the line and Rodman averaged 59.8% for his career.
For those keeping score at home: Many NBA players can shoot about 70 percent.
Retired Hall of Famers, Steve Nash, Ray Allen and Reggie Miller, for example are considered top 10 all-time free throw shooters who shot nearly 90 percent from the charity stripe.
Nicole “Hoopz” Alexander was the winner of the first season of the VH1 reality show, Flavor of Love, where she received the nickname “Hoopz.”
Alexander was also a contestant on VH1 reality show, I Love Money. After defeating Joshua “Whiteboy” Gallander at the final challenge, she was named the $250,000 winner. These days, Hoopz is still on camera. She recently appeared in rapper, Ty Dolla $ign’s music video, “Nothing Like Your Exes.”
She’s also directing and producing, has a forthcoming merchandise line and her role in the series First Lady are available via Amazon streaming services.
In addition to discussing Shaq’s free throw shooting, Hoopz tells Heavy Live With Scoop B that while working out with Shaq, he’d hit memorable three-pointers on the floor. “One-on-one all the time,” she said.
“21 all the time. We had a couple little games we’d play all the time, you know? Just having fun.
“He’ll hit the three and he actually has a good corner shot. I would’ve never thought it. Obviously he did it a couple of times in the games or whatever, but yeah he’ll stand back and shoot the three and I’m like, ‘What the… oh ok!’ But he really can’t do that in the game. He’ll do it in the warm-ups maybe.”
Now retired from basketball and broadcasting on TNT, Shaq’s got his hands in tons of different brand endeavors like Epson and Papa Johns.
Hoopz tells me she respects his grind. “I love ambitious people,” she tells Heavy Live With Scoop B.
“I admire him for that. I’ve learned so many things on the business end of it, you know? And the value of a team; the people you trust, things like that or whatever. Also when to move and when not to move, where to place your money and things like that; he’s taught me so much. So I have to say his ambition and his love for the people in his family – he’s a family person too, the people that he loves he’ll do anything for them. So his heart. So I say that.”