Shaq pridefully claimed a few days ago that his Lakers of the early 2000s would have "easily" beaten Michael Jordan's Bulls. He thinks that because the Bulls' starting center was Luc Longley from 1996-1998, he would be able to dominate the paint.
O'Neal is never afraid to be bold about his opinions, and that's certainly the case with this hot take. No doubt, the early 2000s Lakers are probably one of the favorites to beat the Jordan-led Bulls, but to argue that they would easily beat the Bulls is ridiculous.
The Bulls were 72-10 in the 1995-96 season for a reason. They had arguably the greatest player of all time in Michael Jordan and the greatest sidekick of all time in Scottie Pippen. The Bulls aren't invincible, but no one's going to "easily" beat them.
What's most important to think about is the fact that Luc Longley probably wouldn't be Shaq's primary defender. Does anyone remember how the Bulls dealt with Shaq in the 1996 playoffs?
Shaq was absolutely dominating Longley and Bill Wennington in the first half of Game 1. There seemed to be no answer for him until Phil Jackson decided to throw the 6'7" Dennis Rodman on the 7'1" O'Neal. It worked like magic. With Rodman as the primary defender, Shaq would only score two points throughout the 3rd quarter, and the Bulls would blow out the Magic and go on to sweep the series with an average win margin of 16.7 points.
How about the following season, when the Lakers met the Bulls in a December regular-season matchup? Rodman held Shaq scoreless as his primary defender, and O'Neal only scored a total of four points in the second half.
Forget the fact that Jordan was a better overall player than Kobe Bryant. Forget that the Bulls have elite defensive wings in Ron Harper and Scottie Pippen to slow Kobe down. Shaq is absolutely right; he is the deciding factor in this matchup. The problem for him is that unlike most other teams, the Bulls have an answer for the Big Diesel: The Worm.
Of course, all these arguments are hypothetical and we'll never really know the answer. But an "easy" win for the Lakers? That's ridiculous.
Preview photo credit: Andrew D. Bernstein, Getty Images