Shaquille O’Neal is most commonly known today for his quirky sports commentary on TNT. The former NBA all-star is at the center of conversations, particularly around basketball and the actions of athletes.

However, in a recent conversation, O’Neal discussed the world of eSports and expanded his definition of what an “athlete” is.


It Takes A Certain Mentality

In a conversation O’Neal was having with Jake Lucky of Full Squad Gaming, according to Dot Esports, the former Los Angeles Laker shared that he believes eSport players should be considered athletes.

“I do [consider pro esports players as athletes]. I wanna commend you guys, and I’m proud of you guys,” Shaq said in the video with Lucky.

For O’Neal, the word “athlete” has different meanings, but ultimately he believes it boils downs to a person’s mindset –providing a few examples of what he meant from his time on a show he was associated with titled “Shaq Vs.”

The premise of that show was for the NBA legend to take on the challenge of competing against others in their area of expertise. One of the challenges included Olympian Michael Phelps, which O’Neal notes as some of the “hardest sh-t” he’s ever done in his life.

The experience on that show challenged O’Neal physically and helped him develop the perspective that being an athlete is more than physical ability and prowess.

“Fifteen percent of the game is physical. Everything else is mental. If you guys say you’re athletes, I believe you because I can’t do what you do,” O’Neal said to Lucky.

What is eSports?

CNN describes eSports as “competitive, organized video gaming.” eSports athletes compete on teams or leagues to play the same games that those at home frequently play such as  Fortnite, League of Legends, Call of Duty, Madden NFL, and more.

Games usually draw thousands of viewers to watch them “perform” in person or via streaming channels. For example, Twitch is one of the most popular platforms for eSports streaming.