Deandre Ayton was given goosebumps by an inspirational message from Shaquille O'Neal

The Phoenix Suns have high hopes for Deandre Ayton after selecting him with this year’s number one overall pick.

He has all the attributes to become a dominant big man in the current NBA era and showed a glimpse of his talent in the Summer League.

The center averaged a double-double of 20.1 points and 11.6 rebounds in college with Arizona and has received some comparisons to Shaquille O’Neal because of his huge 7’1″ frame.

But the Hall of Famer recently played down any similarities between the two of them and instead delivered an inspirational message to the youngster.

“I keep hearing that this Ayton guy can be the next Shaq,” O’Neal said on “The Big Podcast with Shaq.”

“My advice to Ayton is don’t be the next Shaq. Be the first Ayton. I wish you well. I hope you break all my records.”

The message was relayed to the 20-year-old just days later and he said it gave him goosebumps, according to The Athletic’s Gina Mizell.

“You need to tell me that after this, so I can write it down and keep it in my room,” Ayton said of Shaq’s message. “That’s motivation right there to keep me going, now.”

Of course, comparing Ayton to one of the best and most successful centers in NBA history is placing huge pressure on his shoulders.

Shaq had 15 All-Star appearances, 14 All-NBA honours, four NBA championships and an MVP award.

That’s a lofty bar for the young Suns pivot to reach but if he’s able to achieve even half of that, he’ll be looking at a Hall of Fame career.

Embiid rivalry

As the top pick, there are big expectations for Ayton and he’s determined to live up to them.

Even though he hasn’t played a single game in the league, the Bahamas native has already developed a bit of a rivalry with fellow center Joel Embiid.

The Philadelphia 76ers star took exception to former NBA point guard Chauncey Billups comparing Ayton to him on draft night and the two bigs have had a friendly back and forth this summer.

On media day, Embiid said the rookie will “get his a– kicked this year” but Ayton says he’ll do his talking on the court.

“I can’t really say anything,” he said, per Arizona Sports. “I haven’t put the ball in the hoop so the only thing I can probably do is just let my game talk. Just compete.

“As soon as I put the ball in the hoop I can say what I want a little bit so I’m waiting.”

The first meeting between the two will take place on November 19 when the 76ers host the Suns at Wells Fargo Center.

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