A man of seemingly, literally endless nicknames, Shaquille O’Neal is an all-time huckster of the absurd, his turn in the increasingly-prescient prep recruiting film Blue Chips the first window into a strange and wonderful pop cultural journey running parallel with the career of one of the most dominant centers in NBA history. At his peak, Shaq wasn’t merely unstoppable; he was an all-powerful unknown quantity, capable of breaking out post moves that a person his size should probably never attempt for fear of embarrassment.
After leading the Orlando Magic to a surprise NBA Finals appearance in 1995 alongside Penny Hardaway, Shaq was the engine behind the three-peat Los Angeles Lakers of the early aughts, a guiding inside force during Kobe Bryant’s ascent. Though egos tore apart a team that many fans believe had not maximized its potential, Shaq continued to be a star, joining Dwyane Wade in Miami for a championship run in 2006 and chalking up a final All-Star appearance in 2009 with the late-period Seven Seconds or Less Phoenix Suns.
Never at a loss for words or descriptors, Shaq’s relationship with the media was a generally genial one, though not without periodically landing him in some controversy. Shaq earned a whole host of nicknames, including (but, importantly, not at all limited to) Shaq Fu, The Big Aristotle, The Big Shamrock and Hobo Master, but Diesel is the one that rises above the rest, not the least of which for its exclusion of the word “Big.” Shaquille O’Neal was an oil tanker in the paint, so Diesel sticks hardest.