That’s how many career points Shaquille O’Neal has accumulated during his 17 years as a professional basketball player in the NBA as of last night. Only four players have scored more total points in their NBA career than The Big Nickname: Wilt Chamberlain (31,419), Michael Jordan (32,292), Karl Malone (36,928), and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387). That’s some seriously solid company. The magnitude of the achievement is self evident.
In order to surpass Wilt, Shaq will likely need to play at least five more seasons. He’s currently on track for 780 points for this season, and it’s unlikely that his production will increase if he does continue to play after this season.
What’s truly amazing though, is how many points Shaq has accumulated despite the numerous missed opportunities for more scoring throughout his career. Take for example the fact that Shaq has never played all 82 games in a season. He’s averaged 68 games per season. If the Big Diesel averaged just five more games per season, when multiplied by his career scoring average of 24, he would have roughly 2,000 more total points. That would put him at 30,000 mark. Then consider that Shaq has made just 53% of his 11,049 career free throw attempts. That’s 5,831 made free throws. If Shaq had shot 75% over his career (kind of the unofficial standard for FT%), he would have made a total 8,286 free throws. That’s another 2,400 points that would have brought his total just past Michael Jordan and just out of reach of Karl Malone.
This is not to knock Shaq. If anything, it gives you an idea of what an amazing field goal generating machine he has been over his career. Still makes you think. If he’d stayed in shape . . . If he’d gotten over his mental hurdle at the foul line . . . just where would we rank him among the greatest of all time? Regardless, in the pantheon of wasted talent, Shaq sits nowhere near the dais.