Shaquille O'Neal holds little back in book
During his 19-year career in the NBA, center Shaquille O'Neal was never shy about taking shots at his fellow players or even legends long-since retired. Thus, it should be no surprise that in "Shaq Uncut: My Story," a new book co-authored with ESPN analyst and ESPNBoston.com columnist Jackie MacMullan and due out Nov. 15, contains more of the same.
In excerpts made available to the media, former teammates and Hall of Famers alike find themselves once again in O'Neal's crosshairs.
According to O'Neal, his former teammate Kobe Bryant disobeyed a 2003 coaching staff directive to stop publicly criticizing each other. Instead, he quickly did an interview with then-ESPN reporter Jim Gray and questioned the center's fitness and the severity of a lingering toe injury.
Kareem was never around. And, whenever I did see him, he usually ignored me. The disappointing thing to me was, being in L.A. all those years and trying to fill those shoes, I would have liked to have a conversation with him ... He'd say hello, but I was looking for, 'Hey, do this' or 'Watch out for that.' He knew everyone was comparing me to him. He knew better than anyone what I was up against, but he gave me nothing.” -- Shaq on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
With tensions already running high because of Bryant's sexual assault case and O'Neal's uncertain contract status, the two blew up at each other and a volatile relationship grew even worse. O'Neal also claims Bryant complained to then-general manager Jerry West about excessive rookie hazing.
In 2008, O'Neal recalls a blowup at practice with then-head coach Pat Riley, where the two nearly came to blows. As a result, according to the center, "My ticket out of Miami was punched."
O'Neal and LeBron James were teammates during James' final season in Cleveland as fears swirled over his departure. As a result, claims O'Neal, the organization catered to James by making him off limits to criticism.
O'Neal also takes issues with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The two may share lineage in a line of great Laker centers, but in Shaq's eyes, the elder center was reluctant to share any advice or tips.
"Kareem was never around. And, whenever I did see him, he usually ignored me. The disappointing thing to me was, being in L.A. all those years and trying to fill those shoes, I would have liked to have a conversation with him ...
"He'd say hello, but I was looking for, 'Hey, do this' or 'Watch out for that.' He knew everyone was comparing me to him. He knew better than anyone what I was up against, but he gave me nothing."
Abdul-Jabbar responded to these criticisms with a post on his personal Facebook page.
"I went down to LSU and worked with Shaq on the fundamentals of the Skyhook as a favor to Coach Dale Brown. I spent time with Shaq in the gym and gave him some drills he could use to develop the hook shot. But when I followed up with his Coach, Dale Brown, I was told that Shaq's father told his son he didn't need to develop a hook shot and all he needed to ... do was smash everything into the basket. Shaq's fathers felt that he was so overpowering physically that he should just dunk everything and not worry about developing a finesse shot like the Skyhook," he wrote.
Abdul-Jabbar added: "As a pro I never approached Shaq because I thought he was pretty successful dunking everything and I assumed he didn't want my help. Additionally, I was never on the coaching staff of any of his teams. I was never unfriendly to him and I would talk to him, but Shaq was enjoying his success, doing it his way. He never asked me of what I thought he should be doing and he never tried to reach out to me for any instruction and I respected that decision.
"If I had any idea that Shaq wanted to learn from me, I would have been happy to have worked with him, but all indications that I had received was that he felt he was doing fine and he didn't need or want my help. I am totally surprised by Shaq's comments as I tried to respect his privacy and never got any indication from anyone that he wanted or needed any input from me with regard to how he played the game. Shaq had a great career, and I like everyone else, respect what he has achieved."
Andy Kamenetzky is the co-author of the Land O'Lakers blog on ESPNLosAngeles.com.