In the season two episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm titled “Shaq,” the A-story involved Jeff Green giving Larry floor seats to a Lakers game. Midway through the game, Larry stretched his legs and ended up tripping Shaquille O’Neal, causing Shaq to fall to the ground and badly injure his knee. Afterward, Larry became a pariah on the streets, as nobody in the city could even stand to be near him because he was the man responsible for possibly jeopardizing the rest of the Lakers’ season.
Inexplicably, however, the incident also seemed to start a run of good luck for Larry. With nobody wanting anything to do with him, he was now getting out of numerous annoying tasks he didn’t want to participate in to begin with, as well as getting revenge on a doctor who had wronged him earlier in the episode.
Written by Larry David himself, “Shaq” first aired on HBO in November of 2001, and was directed by Dean Parisot, the man behind movies such as Fun with Dick and Jane and Galaxy Quest. It came during the height of O’Neal’s popularity. Months later, the Lakers would win their third-straight NBA Championship. The episode seamlessly blends the world of entertainment and sport, and a handful of scenes are still referenced by fans of the show to this day — one of which we’ll get to in a moment.
But for now, let’s dig a little deeper with some of the best things about “Shaq,” which you can watch on HBO Now to refresh your memory.
Yes, Even Shaq’s Lines Were Improvised
Curb Your Enthusiasm is well-known for being unscripted. Larry spends a great deal of time writing detailed outlines of how he wants the scene to go, but from there, it’s all improvisation. Multiple takes are allowed, but, for the most part, the actors are pretty much on their own. According to Cheryl Hines, who played David’s wife on the show, the actors do not discuss their scenes beforehand, and most of the guest stars who have been on the show never even get to see an outline. So, perhaps we need to give O’Neal the recognition he deserves for the spectacular hospital scene where he played Scattergories with his doctor. I do have to disagree with him when he says that peanut butter is a dairy product, though.
The Scoreboard Shown Mid-Game At The Staples Center Was Fictionalized
The Lakers-Timberwolves game depicted in the episode took place during the 2000-01 NBA season. However, most of the game’s details, including what was shown on the Staples Center scoreboard, was fictional. Oddly enough, the Lakers and Wolves played an actual game on April 12, 2001, and, in that game, the Lakers led 51-44 at the half, which is the exact opposite score shown on the scoreboard. The production team must have gone to great lengths to make sure it looked realistic. In fact, nine out of 10 player-numbers depicted on the scoreboard belonged to actual players who could have been in a theoretical game at the time. Only the Lakers No. 31 was not an actual player, as it would not be until the 2003 season that someone would wear that jersey number (Jamal Sampson).
This Was Shaq’s Eighth Acting Credit
Aside from being the NBA’s Most Valuable Player one season earlier, by the time this episode aired, O’Neal had already acted in seven different movies and TV shows. His debut role came in Blue Chips, where he played a college basketball recruit from Louisiana. From there, he moved on to roles in Kazaam, Freddy Got Fingered, and Arli$$. Okay, so he wasn’t exactly Robert De Niro, but for a man who was probably the most dominant basketball player on the planet at the time, he was showing quite a bit of range.
Shaq’s Favorite Episode Of Seinfeld Is ‘The Contest’
Because Larry knew that Shaq was such a huge fan of Seinfeld, he brought him a VHS copy of every episode from all nine seasons of the show. Shaq could not have been more pleased, and he was prepared to let bygones be bygones for that whole “tripping him and destroying his knee” thing. I can’t say I blame him — “The Contest” is an all-time classic. Even though George totally cheated.
Aisha Tyler played Shaq’s fictional girlfriend in this episode, and the Lakers’ team doctor was played by actor Joel McKinnon Miller, whom you may know better as Scully from Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
It Inspired A Meme At Starbucks That’s Still Going Strong 14 Years Later
When Larry accompanied Cheryl out for coffee, he approached the barista and didn’t know what to order, so, instead, he let the expert decide. “Just give me one of the vanilla bullsh*t things.” It’s a classic line that has since inspired numerous threads on Reddit, and even has its own Urban Dictionary entry. Also, good luck finding an actual barista who works at Starbucks who hasn’t heard the line at least a dozen times since they’ve worked there. No joke, I find this scene on YouTube every couple months whenever I think about it, and it never ceases to put me in a great mood. Milk and coffee, who would have thought?