A rather controversial topic in the esports community is whether pro players should be considered athletes. Seeing as though esports pros train for big events and dedicate their lives to the sport, many feel like their efforts should be as widely recognised as athletes who compete in more typical sports. The other side of the argument is that some people consider an "athlete" to be someone who work extremely hard physically. It's strongly contested debate, and now NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal has had his say on the matter.
Jake Lucky, co-founder of Full Squad Gaming, recently interviewed Shaq and asked him which side of the argument he falls on. To the delight of esports players across the world, Shaq does think they should be considered athletes, explaining that he believes esports players have the same mental strength as more traditional atheletes and are therefore just as valid.
"Athlete means different things, but athlete means here," says Shaq, pointing to his head. "15 percent of the game is physical and all that, everything else is mental, so the things that you guys go through, that's why you guys don't really have a long "life shelf." You know, it's three to five, five to six years? You know, same thing with NBA and NFL so yes, you guys are athletes. If you guys say you're athletes, I believe you, because I can't do what you do."
To back up his point, Shaq also talked about his involvement in Shaq Versus, a reality TV show in which he would go up against some of the world's best athletes at their own sport. Shaq talks about his experience swimming against Michael Phelps and racing against late stock car driver Dale Earnhardt, which led him to believe that being an athlete is more of a mental challenge rather than a solely physical one.
Shaq's opinion won't be enough to finally put the question to bed, but at least esports players know that they have one of the NBA's greatest ever players in their court.
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