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V Exclusive! Shaquille O’Neal Addresses His Legacy, Pat Riley, Rapping and a Certain Two-Guard (PT.1)

VIBE Q: STILL BUSTIN’ BALLS

POSTRETIREMENT, SHAQUILLE O’NEAL’S CANDOR HASN’T GONE DORMANT. THE NEWEST ADDITION TO INSIDE THE NBA PICKS UP A FEW FLAGRANT FOULS WHILE ADDRESSING HIS LEGACY, PAT RILEY, RAPPING AND HOW HE GOT WHACKED BY A CERTAIN TWO-GUARD -- Thomas Golianpoulos

SHAQUILLE O’NEAL HAD a tumultuous relationship with the media during his playing days, getting into tiffs with Bill Walton, Skip Bayless and any reporter on Team Kobe. Now retired, he understands the sensitive egos of professional athletes, but that won’t prevent him from lobbing grenades from his analyst chair on TNT’s Inside the NBA. “I’m G-14 classi?ed to say anything about anybody because I’ve done it all,” he says minutes after stepping off the set. “It’s only hating if you haven’t done it, and I’ve done it many times.”

Shaq did it all during his 19-year career: 1992–93 NBA Rookie of the Year; 15-time All-Star; three-time All-Star MVP; 14 All-NBA selections; two scoring titles; at press time, ?fth all-time in points scored; four NBA championships; three Finals MVPs; and one regular season MVP (the singularity of which really pisses him off). He also acted with Academy Award nominees, rapped with Biggie and chased bad guys as a reserve of?cer on the Miami Beach Police Department.

He retreats to a green room in TNT’s Atlanta studios to reminisce about all those moments. O’Neal wears a white shirt, periwinkle tie, dark suit pants and a matching vest. His head is shaved clean. He rocks a bushy neck beard. Needless to say, he is enormous—7’1”, 300-plus pounds. And when he’s ready to chat, he snatches the digital recorder with his massive hand and holds it close to his mouth. “I have a low voice,” he says.

VIBE: Evaluate your performance so far in the new gig.

SHAQUILLE O’NEAL: I’m at a low -C. I’m learning and will only get better. I just want to keep people entertained. I don’t want to be talking with the big vocabulary and all that bullshit. I’m short and to the point. I’m very educated and can give you somewhat of a vocabulary, but I don’t get to the philosophical side.
 
Let’s look back at your career. You went to LSU with Stanley Roberts, a talented big guy that didn’t make it because of his work habits. Why weren’t you another Stanley Roberts? Was it because of your father Sarge’s discipline?
Yes. Someone said once that what I went through was abuse. But I was glad he did it. He taught me to think before I made a terrible mistake, and to think about the consequences. One time, [my friends] stole a car and a guy started shooting, and one of my friends got shot. Because I was scared about what Sarge would do to me, I thought about it. “Hey, Shaq, let’s steal a car.” “Well, dad’s gonna whip my ass. If we get caught, we go to jail. I don’t feel like doing that tonight.
Nah, y’all go ahead. I’m cooling.” I owe my parents everything.
 
How did you respond to not making the 1992 Dream Team?
I was surprised, but I’m a realist. Christian Laettner was better than me. He was fundamentally sound, had the footwork and could shoot.
 
It seemed like the Magic considered drafting Chris Webber after your rookie year. Why did you prefer Penny Hardaway?

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