I was watching this old flashback vid on the old Shaq-Kobe feud and O'Neal was pissed because Kobe said publicly he was overweight. Now my question, how is a physical monster like Shaq considered to be overweight? His weight might've fluctuated like all NBA players but he was always considered one of the most athletic and nimble centers in the league and withstood more physical pounding then anyone in the league yet still dominated every night.
If he wasn't "fat" during his career how different would his legacy have been?
I wouldn't label him as fat, but he was overweight. He knew how to use his size and athleticism, and he had skills that was hard to guard like his baby hook shots. You can still be dominant in the league and not be fat. If you look at Shaq's early days, he wasn't fat but he was still dominant. It was until his later days that his conditioning started to show signs of slowing down.
In Shaq's first autobiography, he mentioned that he went to see Phil Jackson after he got signed by the Lakers. He met him at his cabin house and Phil knew that he was overweight so he started conditioning him there immediately. He told Shaq to move a log in the lake, so Shaq had to go in the lake and move a big ass log that was in the way.
I'd say if he was better conditioned throughout his career, the biggest difference would be his health. He started to get injured more often later in his career but I believe that if he was better conditioned from the start, his late career injuries might have been combated better.
Shaq was 280lbs when he was drafted and his NBA weight was always 325lbs in later years although rumours were he was nearer 400lbs. Shaq was never going to be a tall slim 7 foot guy like say Tyson Chandler so he would have been a natural 300lbs plus guy.
Shaq only played over 70 games 6 times in his 20 year reagular season career but his is still 31st on all time number of games and more tellingly 21st on all time minutes list. Add on all his play off appearances then he still played hell of a lot of games and minutes in his NBA career especially for a guy of his size.
Shaq on form was one of the most dominant big men ever in NBA history IMO.