Phil Jackson Challenged Shaquille O’Neal to Play 48 Minutes Per Game

Ahead of Shaquille O’Neal’s Hall of Fame enshrinment tonight, a nostalgic Phil Jackson took a trip down memory lane (he’s done that a lot lately.)

The Zen Master writes that he first met the big fella in a small Montana town; Shaq was there to perform with a hip-hop group.

In their first season together with the Los Angeles Lakers, Jackson claims that O’Neal accepted the coach’s subtle challenge to play every minute of every game.

Per The Players’ Tribune:

In the first week of the 1999–2000 season, I stopped him coming off the floor during a timeout and asked him: “What do you think was Wilt’s greatest accomplishment?” He quickly and confidently replied: “Averaging 50 points and 30 rebounds a game.”


I shook my head. […] “Nope, he averaged over 48 minutes a game. Do you think you could do that?”


Walking out of the timeout huddle, he looked back at me. […] “He could do it. So can I.”


So I played him 48 minutes a game until he called uncle, which wasn’t that many games into November. But he didn’t want to come to my office to tell me, so he sent John Salley as his spokesperson. I was glad to comply, as I didn’t expect this experiment to last the whole year. That wasn’t the point. We never spoke another word about it. It did, however, get him in great condition. By season’s end, he was the MVP.