KEY POINTS

  • Shaquille O'Neal and Yao Ming had a number of battles in their NBA careers
  • For three years, O’Neal believed that Yao could not speak English
  • O’Neal and Yao were both inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016

Shaquille O’Neal will go down in NBA history as probably the most dominant center that the league has ever seen.

During his prime, very few could hold their own against the legendary big man.

One other iconic big man that did have his moments against O'Neal was the one and only Yao Ming.

O’Neal and Yao did go head-to-head a few times in their careers. While the American cager was more often than not on the winning side, the Chinese player was able to hold his own.

Yao played in the NBA from 2002 to 2011 and was a cornerstone for the Houston Rockets, where he played his entire NBA career. He was eventually inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, and one of those who gave a speech was none other than O’Neal.

That night, O’Nealrecalled a time when Yao had him tricked.

“He tricked me. For three years, I never spoke to Yao because I thought there was a language barrier there,” he shared. “And then one game, he hit me with a Hakeem Olajuwon fadeaway. I said ‘Hey, Yao, nice move!’ and he said ‘Thanks, my brotha!’”

After complimenting him on the nifty move, O’Neal was surprised to find out that Yao could actually speak English.

“I said ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, you speak English?’, he’s like ‘Shaq, you’ve never talked to me. Of course, I speak English!’”

It was an entertaining exchange between two eventual Hall of Famers.

Shaquille O'Neal
Shaquille O'Neal, who was inducted into the Basketball Hall at Symphony Hall in Springfield, Massachusetts, on Sept. 9, 2016, is not in favor of Jill Stein's recount. Getty

O’Neal also had himself a Hall of Fame-worthy career. Drafter No.1 1 overall in 1992, he played until 2011 and raked in a multitude of accolades.

He is a four-time NBA champion, three-time NBA Finals MVP, and one-time NBA season MVP, aside from being a 15-time NBA All-Star.

O’Neal was inducted in the same Hall of Fame class as Yao in 2016, alongside fellow NBA icon Allen Iverson, WNBA great Sheryl Swoopes, and other important figures in the basketball world.

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