V Exclusive! Shaquille O’Neal Addresses His Legacy, Pat Riley, Rapping and a Certain Two-Guard (PT.2, PG.3)

Where do you rank on the big-man scale?
I rank myself number ?ve. One would probably be Kareem because he has the most points, and then Wilt, and then Bill Russell, and then Hakeem [Olajuwon] and then myself.

Really, Hakeem?
Hell, yeah. I rank Hakeem over me because he roasted me. He’s the only man that ever roasted me.

What would you do in your prime against this group of NBA centers?
If I played now, I’d be averaging 45 and 19. People always try to compare Dwight Howard to me. There is no comparison. Back then, every team had a legitimate center and a backup center. The only people he has to go against are [Andrew] Bynum and [Kendrick] Perkins. And he’s only averaging 22 points, so I don’t really see the comparison. That’s why I have a Jay-Z quote on the inside of my arm: “Don’t compare me to nobody/I’d rather not be mentioned/I’m offended.” I have it right there on my bicep. I’ll show it to you if you don’t believe me. You like that quote, don’t you?

In your book, you partly blame your marriage’s failure on you being a “male diva.” What did that teach you?
I learned that especially with not having my family around that you have to break yourself down and care about everybody else. I can do this all day, but if I lose a game, I’m fucking pissed. Don’t say nothing to me. A lot of times, she got it unfairly because I can’t let the people see me like that. After a loss, I was just… She’s a wonderful person, and I was never really taught how to be in a relationship. I don’t know if most men who are were taught. But I never knew how to court a girl. I was so shy. I don’t use that as an excuse, but she is a wonderful person and does a great job at raising the kids. And things happened. Now that it has happened we have to focus on being the best parents possible.

Knowing Kobe, do you think his divorce will affect his play?
The only thing that will affect him is if he can’t see his beautiful babies. I don’t want to say that he doesn’t care about all that other stuff, but he has thick skin. But if there ever is a point that he can’t see his babies when he wants to, that might throw his game off. But I don’t really see anything else throwing off his game.

You’ve had this incredible life—rising from the ’hood in Newark, N.J., to become this global star. How did you escape that?
My father beat the shit out of me until I became a leader. He also always stressed, “If you fuck your knee up, what are you going to do?” So I educated myself. I never thought I could be a college guy. I started off with the bullshit classes ?rst because I wanted to get my GPA up. So I started with remedial English and remedial math. I was like, “This shit ain’t that bad.” And I kept doing it and got into business and marketing. Then it was like, “Let me go get my masters so that they know I’m not your average motherfucking athlete.” Then I was talking to a guy one day who was a doctor, and I asked, “What does it take to become a doctor?” I always thought you had to be this smart nerdy guy to become a doctor. I admit I took the easiest one—human resource development. I wanted to do psychology, but it was too much reading. I like reading, but I really don’t. I’ve been at it for ?ve years, and I’m about to graduate in May. I’m going to be a doctor. Can you believe that shit? I don’t. Dr. O’Neal.

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