NBA and NBL star Nathan Jawai hated being compared to Lakers and Heat legend Shaquille O’Neil


Indigenous NBA star billed as Outback Shaq for his similarities to Shaquille O’Neal reveals why he HATES the nickname and how he almost DIED on court from a mystery health condition

  • Nathan Jawai was given various monikers while playing for the Toronto Raptors 
  • The 34-year-old was nicknamed ‘Outback Shaq’ during his two years in the NBA
  • Jawai has said he hated the nickname as it didn’t reflect him as an Australian 
  • The current Cairns Marlins player also suffers from an irregular heartbeat

Australian basketball star Nathan Jawai has revealed his true feelings towards his colouful nickname and how he feared he would die on court. 

Jawai, 34, was the first Indigenous basketballer to play in the NBA and for the Australian Boomers.

He was dubbed ‘Outback Shaq’ while playing for the Toronto Raptors in his debut season in 2008 after former LA Lakers, Orlando Magic and Miami Heat legend Shaquille O’Neal. 

Jawai, a Torres Strait Islander who was a fan favourite for the Cairns Taipans in the NBL, says there was one aspect of his stint in the elite league he disliked.

Jawai (pictured) suffered a number of life-threating injuries including an irregular heartbeat and damage to arteries around his head and neck

‘My nickname, Outback Shaq, isn’t abuse, but I hated it and I still hate it to this day,’ Jawaii told The Advertiser.

‘It just doesn’t reflect who I am as an Australian, plus I don’t think I look like Shaq, so I don’t identify with it’. 

Jawai stands 2.09metres tall and weighs 140kg while O’Neal towers 2.16metres and tips the scales at 147kg.

Across his 48 NBA games, commentators also used nicknames such as ‘Aussie Shaq’ and “Big Nate’.

During his time in the NBA, pre-season testing in 2008 found Jawaii had an irregular heartbeat.

Nathan Jawai (pictured) was the first Indigenous Australian to play in the NBA and represent the Australian national team

Nathan Jawai (pictured) was the first Indigenous Australian to play in the NBA and represent the Australian national team

Jawai was unable to do any physical activity that would increase the risk of blood clotting and a stroke but recovered from the incident before signing with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

He eventually moved on from America where he was given the moniker he hated, and into European Basketball in countries such as Turkey and Andorra.   

Jawai also suffered severe head trauma causing arteries to be damaged around his head and neck, while playing for Galatasary in Turkey in 2013.

Nathan Jawai (pictured) was nicknamed 'Outback Shaq' during his time in the NBA and revealed he hates the nickname, as it doesn't reflect him as an Australian

Nathan Jawai (pictured) was nicknamed ‘Outback Shaq’ during his time in the NBA and revealed he hates the nickname, as it doesn’t reflect him as an Australian

He was rushed to hospital and was put into the Intensive Care Unit. 

After the health scare, Jawai had 6 months recovery during which he returned to Australia to train with the AIS, before being able to do full contact sessions.

‘I was worried I could die on both occasions,’ Jawai said.

He went on to have a successful career in the NBL, plying his trade for Perth Wildcats and the Cairns Taipans.

Jawai won the NBL in the 2015/6 season with the Perth Wildcats.