Shaquille O’Neal has weighed in on the debate raging around whether esports players are athletes or not, claiming they should indeed be recognized as one and the same.
Shaq Daddy, Big Shamrock, and Superman are just a handful of the names used to describe the one-of-a-kind Shaquille O’Neal.
The terms NRG investor and esports fan are less often-used but still equally valid descriptions of the NBA hall of famer. Though this is far from the first time the 7 ft 1 behemoth has made his NRG affiliation known.
In conversation with Jake Lucky on the Full Squad tour bus, currently traveling America for unique interview opportunities, Shaq offered his opinion over whether or not he believes esports pros are athletes.
In a short clip posted to Twitter, Jake Lucky asked Shaq directly whether he considers esports players to be ‘Athletes’. A semantic debate that has been going on since professional gaming entered the cultural mainstream.
Starting his response, Shaq fired off an instant “I do”, before continuing and clarifying his point. “Athlete means different things. But athlete means here” while tapping his temple.
Expanding upon what ‘here’ means, O’Neal stated “15% of the game is physical, everything else is mental.”
With burnout and mental fatigue consistently on the radar in the pro esports scene, Shaq hit the nail on the head with his thoughts on the duress that players go under. Pointing out: “That’s why you guys don’t really have a long shelf life. 3-5 years?”
Finalizing his thoughts on the topic, O’Neal offered this inspirational soundbite: “If you guys say you’re athletes, I believe you. Cause I can’t do what you do.”
With calls for esports to be included in the Olympics dating back to 2017, and strong opposition in full swing, it’s unlikely that Shaq has closed the debate for good, but it’s a solid step in mainstream recognition.