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Reader’s Digest mistakenly credited Shaquille O’Neal with a very famous Aristotle quote

Dan Devine
Ball Don't Lie

I wouldn't say that I'm the world's biggest fan of the way Shaquille O'Neal uses his Twitter feed these days, but even the contemporary stream of fan retweets peppered with promotion for "Grown Ups 2," "The Smurfs 2" and viral video links is preferable to the social media strategy he deployed last year after receiving his doctorate. As you might recall, Shaq decided that his (well-earned) degree was basically a license to start dispensing inspirational quotes and life lessons 140 characters at a time, tagging them with some variation of "Dr. Shaquille O'Neal, Ed.D," even when they included odd misuses of archaic words ("exuberate") ... or were things he definitely wasn't the first person to say.

Most of those incorrectly attributed quotes were recognized and lampooned at the time the Diesel dropped 'em, but apparently, other, longer-lived jackings weren't:

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Whoops. (Top via Romenesko, bottom via @ellengilmer)

Up top? A quote that appeared in the June edition of Reader's Digest. Beneath that? A correction that appeared in the magazine's July edition. Beneath this, an explanation, from Steve Aschburner at NBA.com:

In its June issue, a quote attributed to O’Neal (“Excellence is not a singular act, but a habit. You are what you repeatedly do”) ran next to a slick illustration of the big fella. It’s been out there, associated with O’Neal, for more than a dozen years. In fact, it was the source of the “Big Aristotle” moniker in the first place. “[That] was coined the day I won the MVP [in 2000],” O’Neal long ago explained. “I stole a quote from that Greek philosopher cat.”

Actually, O’Neal flipped around the phrases in Aristotle’s original deep thought, but hey, close enough.

The editors at the Digest never got the memo. But some readers did notice. Eventually, so did media watchdog Jim Romenesko, the proprietor of his eponymous and much-visited Web site. By that time at least, Reader’s Digest had come clean after learning of the confusion.

One shudders to think of how significantly this egregious error will mar the reputations of all involved. We might stop thinking of Reader's Digest as America's foremost purveyor of unassailably correct and important family-focused general interest information. The uncovering of an admission of plagiarism will surely make it more difficult for O'Neal to find future research or teaching positions. It could be total chaos.

Still, it's best not to jump on Shaq or Reader's Digest's editors here, or judge them too harshly. It's like I always say, and am famously identified as being the first one to have said: "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

Hat-tip to Trey Kerby at The Basketball Jones.

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