With Shaq’s retirement tweet sending waves through Lakerland earlier this week everyone has on their rose colored glasses looking back at the greatness that was Shaquile O’Neal. But not me. For at least this one day I’m going to take the cynical road and reflect about a few things that always bothered me about Shaq’s career. Here’s a short list of my worst memories of the big fella.
5. Fat Shaq
One of the things that will always be debated is how good Shaq could have been if he’d been more willing to work in the off season, if he wanted it more. Compared to the legendary work ethic of Kobe Bryant, Shaq seemed like an unmotivated sloth. And while you can’t argue with three championships, an MVP, and countless dominating post season performances, the fact is he could have been better.
Consider the 2000-2001 season. Shaq was coming off his MVP year, probably the greatest season of his career both in terms of team play and individually. While Kobe had worked tirelessly to improve his game over the summer, Shaq had taken it easy. He came into camp as Bryant put it “fat” and the lack of conditioning may have directly led to the Lakers mediocre start (6-4 over first ten games) and a lingering toe problem for the big man. Eventually O’Neal got himself in shape and the Lakers clicked as a team, burning through the final stage of the regular season and storming the playoffs with a record of 15 – 1. This was probably the peak of the Shaq-Kobe era but one wonders if it could have gone longer and could have reached an even higher summit had Shaq been willing to put more work in.
4. Calling Out Jerry Buss
Definitely not Shaq’s most endearing moment here. During a preseason game in 2003 Shaq dunked a ball then glared over in the stands at Lakers owner Jerry Buss while shouting out, “Pay me.” Actually, that’s kind of the sanitized version, with other accounts referencing a choice profanity. Regardless, it wasn’t the classiest of moves and in the court of public opinion, the Diesel wasn’t exactly winning over hearts and minds.