When 7’1” rookie Shaquille O’Neal entered the league during the 1992-93 season, the NBA hoops weren’t quite sturdy enough to withstand a 300-pound Shaq attack.
On February 7, 1993 Marv Albert and I were broadcasting the Orlando Magic at Phoenix Suns game live on NBC. Less than three minutes into the first quarter, Shaq followed up an offensive rebound with a thunderous dunk and managed to take down the entire basketball hoop with him on his way down.
Marv eloquently summed up the sentiments of the roaring crowd, “That’s one we haven’t seen!” It was like watching a heavyweight boxer deliver a knockout punch to an opponent who teeters for a couple seconds before losing consciousness and hitting the deck. The steel mechanism was no match for Shaq. The pole behind the backboard buckled and collapsed in slow motion upon impact.
Luckily, the arena had a spare. They wound up having to replace the entire apparatus with a brand new one before the game could continue. The spectacle the rookie phenom unwittingly created with his display of colossal strength was indicative of the huge mark the big guy would make during his 19-year pro career.
After the game I asked Shaq if I could have his Reebok high tops. He autographed his size 23’s on the toes and gave them to me. It was one of those nights you never forget. Later that month Shaq was voted into the All-Star starting lineup, and at the end of the season he was named the 1993 NBA Rookie of the Year.