NBA icon Shaquille O’Neal recently shared how watching Julius “Dr. J” Erving play basketball ignited his passion for the game.

On a recent episode of “The Big Podcast with Shaq” Presented by Playmaker HQ, Shaq reminisced about witnessing Dr. J’s electrifying performances and the profound impact it had on his career choice.

During the podcast, Shaq vividly recounted the transformative moment when he first saw Dr. J in action. Reflecting on a game at Madison Square Garden, Shaq described the awe-inspiring experience of witnessing Dr. J’s gravity-defying dunks and the raucous crowd reactions that followed.

Inspired by Dr. J’s prowess on the court, Shaq realized his own basketball aspirations and declared his ambitions to his father after the game.

“Have you ever seen the movie “Fish That Saved Pittsburgh”? So when I saw that I became a fan and then my father took me to The Garden to watch him [Julius Erving] play. And I was like, that motherfucker’s real?…So when I see him go baseline, throw it down, the crowd went crazy. It’s like when the crowd stood up, the basketball gods just entered me…I always had to address my father as ‘Sir’ so I stood up and said ‘Sir, I finally figured out what I want to do with my life…I want to be like this man here’ and my father said this to me, he said ‘I’ll make you the best big man ever,’ and he started throwing names I’ve never heard of. ‘I’m going to make you like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, I’m gonna make you like Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell. But I wasn’t worried about those names. I was worried about this name right here, Dr. J” – Shaquille O’Neal

Recalling a pivotal encounter with his childhood idol, Shaq shared an amusing anecdote from his college days at LSU. In a humorous twist of fate, Shaq found himself face-to-face with Dr. J after skipping a class, only to be rudely awakened by his imposing presence in his dorm room.

The unexpected visit served as a memorable wake-up call for Shaq, both figuratively and literally, as he grappled with the surreal experience of meeting his idol in person.

“So that was the first time I saw him play. Second time I met him, I thought I was dead…No, for real. I thought I was dead! So this was at LSU my junior year. I know I’m going pro. I know I’m going pro. So Coach [Dale] Brown had this thing, if you miss class, you’re going to have to run, right?…So I’m in school one day I had an eight o’clock class. I was like, fuck it, I only got two months. I’m not going, bro. I was sleeping and Dr. J was in my room when he put his hand on my chest and he woke me up. That was my first time physically meeting him. He was in my room and he said, Hey man, coach Brown said meet him at the track. I was like, what? And when I looked up, it was him. I thought I was dead, bro. I was in my mind, I was like, I done fucking died…So he said, Hey man, coach Brown said meet him out the track. So that was the first time I met Dr. J.” – Shaquille O’Neal

Dr. J chimed in with his perspective on the amusing incident, shedding light on the circumstances that led to his impromptu visit to Shaq’s dorm room.

As part of a marketing endeavor for Converse, Dr. J was tasked with recruiting Shaq, leading to the unexpected rendezvous that left a lasting impression on both basketball legends.

“I was trying to recruit him for Converse so they sent me down, set it up. Coach Brown gave me access to the room and said go in there he’s probably just resting but tell him he’s going to have to run because he knows the rules. So I went there, to talk to him about Converse and that little incident happened.” – Julius “Dr. J” Erving

Shaq’s candid reflections offer a glimpse into the profound influence that Dr. J had on his formative years as a basketball player. From the electrifying moments on the court to the serendipitous encounters off the hardwood, Shaq’s journey from a star-struck fan to an NBA legend is a testament to the enduring legacy of Erving.