Tue Sep 07 03:00pm EDT
This has been a busy summer for Shaquille O'Neal(notes). He's been dancing up a storm, drinking salt-filled orange juice and — oh yeah — signing with the most storied franchise in NBA history. With all those extracurricular activities, it's got to be hard to find time to get in playing shape for his 19th season. He'll get around to it sometime, no doubt.
But for now, training will have to wait. Instead, Shaq sat down for an interview with the New Orleans Times-Picayune's John Reid, mostly to talk about how great he is.
What do you want your legacy to be?
I never had an inconsistent year, and I've always been dominant. I'm the No. 5 all-time scorer — 2,000 points behind Wilt Chamberlain. Once I pass him up, I want the title as the most dominant to ever play the game. When I'm done, it would be nice to say that I passed up Chamberlain, earned five rings, and finished in the (top) 10 all-time in blocks and rebounds. Hopefully all of that will put me on the first ballot for the Hall of Fame.
Interesting perspective. But I guess, if you throw out the seven seasons where Shaq played less than 60 games, he's totally right — he's never had an inconsistent season (as long as you don't count him not playing in a quarter of his team's games in a third of his years in the league). Also, might as well throw out the 2007-08 season, when Shaq was traded from Miami to Phoenix because everyone thought he was washed up and he averaged 13.6 points per game for the whole year. And someone should probably mention that he hasn't averaged 30 minutes a game for a whole season, excepting the year he spent with Phoenix's amazing medical staff, since 2006. Of course, he's been missing games and playing short minutes for much of his career, which is technically the definition of consistent. Point, Shaq.
Despite his protestations, Shaq isn't really concerned with consistency. He's actually concerned with domination, which inspired Shaq's favorite nickname — Most Dominant Ever. If you ask him, that hasn't changed.
Do you still consider yourself one of the best players in the game?
Everyone always wants the title as the best player in the game. I own my title, and I still own it to this day. A lot of people want to take shots now, but I'm 38. But the only person in the league that slowed me down was a brother named father time, and that's life, it slows everybody down. But no big man is ever going to do what I and Tim Duncan(notes) have done in our careers. It was time for 10 consecutive years that either me or Tim was in the NBA Finals. It was broken two years, but there will never be another big guy to do that.
Another good point by Shaq since he is indeed 38. Of course, that doesn't really answer the question that Reid was asking. Yeah, when Shaq gets the ball, he puts it in the hoop. But nowadays, that's about all he can handle, and he can't do it quite as often as he used to. So to answer the question — no, Shaq isn't one of the best players in the game.
The Duncan/Shaq thing is kind of a cop-out too, and not just because it has almost nothing to do with whether or not Shaq is one of the best players in the game. Yeah, Shaq made the finals five times, but he wasn't the best player on his own team for the trip with the Heat, plus he lost to the Pistons in 2004. Duncan went four times and won four titles, all while being the focal point of his franchise. And let's not get in to the fact that combining careers is silly. It's not like anyone's arguing that Steve Kerr and Robert Horry(notes) are two of the most dominant players ever because they alternated titles for a decade. Specious argument, Shaq.
There is a lot more good stuff in Reid's interview with Shaq. For instance, he wanted out of Miami because he didn't like Pat Riley's five-hour practices and he was almost traded to Utah after the situation went bad in Los Angeles. Mostly though, it's Shaq talking about how amazing he has been throughout his career, which is always interesting if not always accurate.
But perhaps the best news of all is that Shaq's long-dormant police-officer career — remember, he had his fake badge revoked after his anti-Kobe rap — is still thriving.
Once you are done with basketball, do you plan to enter law enforcement full-time?
I'm either going to be the sheriff in Baton Rouge, Miami or Los Angeles. One of those counties is going to have to welcome me in.
In two years — when Shaq says he's retiring — Baton Rouge, Miami or Los Angeles are going to get a whole lot safer. Good news for those cities, bad news for criminals. Also, probably good news for protective metal suit makers.