The Shaquille O’Neal post-retirement honeymoon is officially over.
“There is arrogance and ego in every athlete. It is a survival skill in their work-place jungle, a necessary tool. Some guys are just better at keeping it hidden. But what do you think that was when Tom Brady, sixth-round pick, introduced himself to Patriots owner Bob Kraft for the very first time by saying, “I’m the best decision you’ve ever made”?
Confidence is something you keep on the inside, to yourself; arrogance is just when it slips out of your mouth. That wasn’t mere confidence Larry Bird was spouting when he told everyone in the room at the three-point contest that they were playing for second place.
But Shaq and Wilson seem to understand the media game more than most. Too many athletes take themselves too seriously. That’s volatile when mixed with fans and media who also take their athletes and games too seriously, too. Newsman Dan Rather offers this as life advice: Take your work seriously but not yourself. You would be amazed what that buys you, even though it isn’t the easiest thing to absorb in a stadium full of people paying to worship you.
Have you seen all the jerky stuff on Shaq’s rÃ©sumÃ©? He has torched legends like Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson and Pat Riley. He has called Erik Dampier “Erika” and Chris Bosh the RuPaul of NBA big men and gone after Dwight Howard, too. He has bullied trainers and Chris Quinn and behaved in a way that is oddly small. He never wanted to work hard, and helped oust Stan Van Gundy in Miami when pushed to do so. Given his overwhelming gifts and size, and his underwhelming work ethic, you could argue that he underachieved.
Re-read that paragraph. That’s quite the sports rap sheet. And it is partial. Imagine all of those words coming out of the mouth of an unsmiling brooder. Shaq has harmed teams and coaches and teammates just like Owens. The differences: Only one of them jokes a lot. Only one of them works very hard, too.
(And only one of them got up on a nightclub stage to ask Kobe how his rear end tastes.)”
We’ve all known this about Shaq, but the media choses to ignore it most of the time. Why? Because despite the insults, O’Neal comes off as a gentle giant.
I applaud Le Batard for indirectly standing up for Bosh, but we won’t remember this column when Inside the NBA returns and O’Neal is cracking jokes alongside Charles Barkley.