Shaquille O’Neal claims that the first title the San Antonio Spurs won in 1999 is fraudulent
Shaquille O’Neal has doubled down on his claim that the 2019-20 season shouldn’t go on and that the championship this season would mean very little to him personally, this time dragging Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs in by name to attempt to prove his point.
The Spurs won the Finals in 1999, a season that didn’t start until early February due to the collective bargaining between the NBPA and the board of governors. Players wanted raises on the league’s minimum salary, and the bartering would go on from July until January.
A 50-game regular season that started months late was agreed upon, still more than half of the standard for a normal season.
The NBA was sorely hurt by the lockout, already losing some of its more casual fans because of Michael Jordan’s second retirement after winning his sixth title with the Chicago Bulls in the season before.
Shaq, though, doesn’t think the Spurs title means much because of the asterisk, and believes this season shouldn’t go on because the conclusion won’t feel authentic. He went so far as to say on the most recent episode of his podcast, The Big Podcast, that he believes the title shouldn’t count, though it shows officially in the record books.
“I wasn’t into [the postseason]. And I would tell Mr. Duncan this to his face. You have four rings, yeah it says you have five, but the asterisks doesn’t count. Anything I do, I never want an asterisks about it.”
Shaq said that it, “wasn’t a real season,” and argued that this season, should it finish, also wouldn’t be real either.
Doubling down, O’Neal said:
“I’ll tell him to his face, I’ll tell all of San Antonio to its face, you only got four. It’s an asterisks.”
The Spurs would overcome the odds of a truncated season and a lack of normalcy, losing just 13 of its 50 regular-season games for a winning PCT of 0.740. San Antonio went 17-3 in their final 20 games of the regular season, losing just one game in the first round of the postseason and one game in the NBA Finals.
Of course, the Spurs swept Shaq and the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Semifinals on the way to the Larry O’Brien trophy.
Not to mention, Popovich was in just his second season as head coach of the team, with Tim Duncan in the sophomore year of his playing career. It was an incredible showing for a dynasty not yet fully formed, a team not yet proven to be the force NBA fans would recognize them as over the following decade-plus.
Prove their spot in the league they would, shortened season or not. Competition is about winning no matter the circumstance, not winning only on predictable terms.
While it will be natural for Spurs fans to be up in arms about these comments, Shaq is prepared for just that. In fact, it’s probably the reaction he’s looking for:
“You don’t have to agree with me, you don’t have to like me, that’s what I think. So all the people that get mad? I’m glad you’re mad.”
Spurs fans know the title is real, and know that the 1999 NBA Finals is what kicked off the dynasty for the Spurs. The Spurs went on to win four more titles between 2000 and 2014 under the tutelage of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and of course, Gregg Popovich.
Shaq will say what he wants, but the Spurs overcame great odds in the 1999 NBA season, thrown into a schedule that was anything but expected.