you mention complete game but completely dismiss the defensive side of the ball
I didn't dismiss it, I just didn't highlight it. CJ was a solid defensive player in college as evidenced by the lightning fast steals you can see in highlight reels. But, like Pete, his role wasn't one of a defensive stopper. Shaq on the other hand WAS Mr. Defense, especially while at LSU.
but nobody had seen anything like Shaq before.
I'd largely agree with that but state again that while dominant he did so almost entirely based on his size and strength. Most of his offensive game was spent with his back to the basket when he wasn't putting back rebounds for dunks. That in NO WAY diminishes how exciting he was to watch...but he was exceptional at a handful of things whereas CJ was far more complete a player.
.there were other great centers...but Shaq was different.
Shaq was much more like Wilt in that his physical size was so much more than any contemporary to handle that it was hard to gauge how talented he was versus how much his sheer size and strength left opposing players in a position where they could simply not guard him.
And just to reiterate again...I love Shaq both as a player and as a continuing representative of LSU. The fact that I find CJ to have been a better player and all around more exciting is not in any way a shot at Shaq. In my mind's eye, when I think basketball I think CJ's wicked cross over then pull up jumper from behind the three point arc in someone grill all in one silky smooth motion and hitting nothing but net. His play is and was everything I found beautiful about the game.