Flashback Friday: Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal Play One-on-One


(Photo: YouTube)

Twenty years ago, Michael Jordan and Shaquille O'Neal gave NBA fans a glimpse into the one All-Star Weekend event everyone in the world would actually tune in to: a one-on-one tournament.

Just imagine, 16 players seeded according to height, playing four rounds of games—say, first to five points, all buckets counting for one point, loser's ball, call your own fouls, three-point arc is the take-back line.

Before the 1996 All-Star Game, Chicago Bulls legend Jordan and Shaq, then of the Orlando Magic, spent part of their pregame warmup dueling each other.

It started out lighthearted, the pair of East All-Stars smiling while trading jumpers—yes, Shaq was hitting jumpers. Then one of Jordan's fadeaways rimmed out, and he replaced his smile with this face:

Which I'm pretty sure is Michael Jordan for, "Oh, it's on now."

And what did the Diesel do? Just hit His Airness with Hakeem Olajuwon's signature "Dream Shake."

Jordan played it cool. But this is a guy so maniacally competitive he once punched teammate Steve Kerr in the face for talking back in training camp, so it's probably safe to say the moment stuck with him.

What sort of player would actually win an NBA-wide one-on-one tournament?

Thankfully there's some precedent: In 1971-72, the NBA held a one-on-one tournament with a representative from each team. It lasted the course of the season with players making time to play one another, and the championship was held during halftime at Game 5 of the NBA Finals.

Detroit Pistons center Bob Lanier—big, athletic, and possessing enough handle to get where he wanted to go—edged out Boston Celtics guard Jo Jo White for the $15,000 prize.