Shaquille O’Neal arrived in the NBA in 1992 and was an absolute terror. He was more or less unstoppable inside and had ridiculous dunks, including one that collapsed the hyrdaulics on a goal.
He was almost impossible to deal with early in his career.
Then, in 2002, along came Yao Ming from China.
Unfortunately, O’Neal welcomed Yao to the NBA with some racially demeaning comments, saying ‘[t]ell Yao Ming, ‘Ching-chong-yang-wah-ah-soh,’” something that provoked a massive backlash. That included his stepfather, who demanded O’Neal apologize and show Yao some respect. O’Neal did, going so far as learning to apologize in Chinese.
He would soon learn to respect Yao’s ability. As this video of their first meeting shows, Yao was a real challenge for O’Neal. If you’ve ever been close to O’Neal, you know he’s one of the biggest people imaginable. It takes a massive man to make O’Neal look small.
At 7-6 and with solid skills, Yao could pull it off. He was big enough to play off of O’Neal defensively and long enough that O’Neal couldn’t bully him when he had the ball.
After they began to compete, O’Neal abandoned his mockery of Yao, replacing it with real appreciation for his skills. They became great friends and remain so to this day.