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Respecting Shaquille O’Neal


I must admit it. One of my favorite teams in basketball is the San Antonio Spurs. So, it goes without saying I used to loathe Shaquille O’Neal. When the Big Aristotle called the Spurs’ 1999 NBA championship one that should have an asterisk, it steamed me. When he’d gripe about referees actually making foul calls on him, I’d get angry.

But, I must say, I’ve mellowed on him.

One: unlike many NBA stars, O’Neal has no criminal record. He’s never been arrested for DUI, never been arrested for rape or assault.

Two: He seems to be a smart guy with his money, and he keeps it in perspective. O’Neal told Sports Illustrated in 2002 how he has one guy who watches his money, a few people who watch that guy and trusts nobody outside his trusted circle of family and friends.

What’s wrong with that? Absolutely nothing.

O’Neal also talked about the stress he has and the problems he deals with. He admitted he’s moody and hates talking on the phone. He’s mature enough to realize that while money can be nice, it won’t solve all your problems.

Third: I’ve come to understand his attitude on the court more. O’Neal told SI about how the Houston Rockets swept the Orlando Magic early in his career when he played for the Magic, and from that he realized he’d never make it in the NBA by being a nice guy. He’d have to get more aggressive.

From this article, which I uncovered from an old issue of the magazine, I saw O’Neal’s a far more complex person than I’d imagined. I thought it was interesting how he says he was to the point in his career where he doesn’t enjoy playing basketball anymore because of all the stress. It reminds me a lot of Joe DiMaggio and why he retired: baseball’s no longer fun, and therefore, no longer a game.

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