April 2 (UPI) -- Basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal concedes that Giannis Antetokounmpo is better than he was as a player.
O'Neal made the comments Monday on The BIG Podcast with Shaq. Antetokounmpo is a leading candidate for 2019 NBA MVP honors.
"Yeah, he's better," O'Neal said. "He's better because he has more opportunity to showcase more. See, I was a post-player and the only thing I was allowed to showcase was my domination, but he's running the floor. I did that earlier -- I stopped doing that because I stopped getting the ball when I ran the floor, so I turned it into a half court domination."
Antetokounmpo, 24, is averaging career-highs in every major category this season, posting 27.4 points, 12.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game for the Milwaukee Bucks. O'Neal, 47, averaged 29.7 points, 13.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 3.0 blocks per game during his 1999 campaign, arguably his most productive season. He won MVP honors that season.
O'Neal averaged 23.7 points, 10.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.3 blocks during his prolific 19-year career. He also won four championships during that tenure.
"But yeah, he's better. And that's why I gave up my 'Superman' title to him," O'Neal said. "But you know what? He works hard. He's a humble kid, he works hard. He doesn't just show up and expect people to say, 'Hey I do this, I do that, I'm the next' ... And he's earned my respect, and he deserves it, so I'm giving it to him. To answer all the critics' questions, you're right. The kid was better than me at 24."
Shaq previously told the Sporting News that if he was playing in the league today, he'd play center like Antetokounmpo.
"I'd have been a 5. I would have been the 'Greek Freak,'" O'Neal said. "I would be a guy that can dribble, can handle, can go to the hole with force, do that. Kick it to guards. I tried to do that every now and then, but my coaches wasn't having it. Every now and then, I did it. I know you guys saw me do it. I would be him.
"However, I wouldn't change my game because everybody else was shooting jumpers. I would still do what I do, and I would punish the bigs. When bigs shoot jumpers, that just tells me they don't like the physical contact. I would definitely take advantage of that."
O'Neal gave his "Superman" nickname to Antetokounmpo in November.
"I've never given my name up before, but I'm giving it to him. He's the new 'Superman.' You heard it here first," O'Neal told The Stephen A. Smith Show on ESPN Radio. "I didn't hit no 3-pointer either, but he's dominating and that's what I like. He's dominating in the paint. You taking it to the hole. You throwing it down. You ain't shooting no flip shots."
"And you know what? I don't want to encourage big guys to shoot jumpers and 3-pointers. Stay your big ass on the inside and dominate like you been doing. So I denounce myself as 'Superman' and I'm giving to the 'Greek Freak.' You heard it here first."
O'Neal averaged 26.2 points, 12.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.9 blocks per game during his age 24 season, his first year with the Los Angeles Lakers.