Shaq: A Sit-Down With The Last Don

By: 06.02.11  •  13 Comments
Shaquille O'Neal

Shaquille O'Neal (photo. Chenoa Maxwell)

Dime: What do you think of the state of basketball today? Not just as it pertains to the NBA, but to basketball in general.
Shaq: I think the state of the NBA is good right now. Every single team has a superstar or a potential superstar in the making. It’s a lot like when I grew up watching the NBA. I think college basketball is boring. High school is a little more exciting these days, but it still isn’t where it needs to be.

Dime: Why do you think basketball at the college and high school levels is suffering?
Shaq: You hear this all the time, but it’s true: there’s a lack of skill. Kids don’t grow up learning the fundamentals, and then they find themselves in the NBA. It’s like sending someone into a knife-throwing contest who’s never practiced throwing knives before. It’s not good.

At the same time, though, it’s hard. Our society glorifies fanciness, especially when it’s on the basketball court. If a guy makes the right pass, the most you’ll ever hear is “Nice pass.” If he gets all crazy with it and goes behind his head or something, “Nice pass” turns into “Oh my God!”

Here’s an example: We’ve all seen a lot of John Stockton highlights, but they usually always end with a Karl Malone finish. You’ll never see a highlight of one of Stockton’s perfect bounce passes to Jeff Hornacek for a jumper, only clips that end with Malone’s hand behind his head dunking and he’s doing all of his “Mailman” stuff.

But like I said, it’s hard. I mean I go to the AND 1 games. I’ll take my kids to them. It’s entertainment.

Dime: Is your legacy something you think about a lot?
Shaq: I actually don’t think about it at all. That’s for the so-called “others” to think about and decide.

Dime: “The others” meaning who? The media?
Shaq: Yes. The media, the Hall of Fame. You look at where “The others” put guys like Bill Walton. Bill Walton only has one or two championships, but the way they talk about him you’d think he had a lot more. I have four. There are a lot of guys in the Hall of Fame and I’ve already passed them by, but you would never know it the way they talk about them. I have four rings, but I want six. Maybe that will do it.

Dime: Is that what drives you? You already have more rings than most players in NBA history, you have all the money you’ll ever need, and no matter what, you’ll go down as one of the greatest players ever. Is the drive for six rings what keeps you in the game and on the grind?
Shaq: That’s the legacy I drive for. That’s it. I have three years left on my contract and I want to go out with a bang. Maybe I’ll end up with five, maybe I’ll end up with four. But I want six. That’s what it’s all about.

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