When you’re as entertaining and knowledgeable as Shaquille O’Neal, you’re going to be around for a long time.
SLAM: Have you been thinking about how you’re going to approach your TV career?
SHAQ: I’m just going to go out there and speak from experience, speak from facts, and just speak my mind. I’m not into bashing people, but I’m going to say what I’ve got to say when I’ve got to say it. I know what buttons to press and what buttons not to press. I chose to go to TNT because they’re more loose and more fun. ESPN…I don’t think I’m ready for that yet.
SLAM: Too corporate?
SLAM: Did you ever get mad at any of the announcers or analysts when they talked about you?
SHAQ: Yeah. My thing is, if you haven’t been there, and you don’t know what it takes, then don’t talk like you know what it takes. I always bring up Skip Bayless. Did he even play basketball? He’s talking about what Tim Duncan should do, and I’m like, You’re talking about one of the greatest players to ever play the game. What do you know? Now, if James Worthy got up there and said it, then I’d respect it. If Bob Pettit got up there, I’d respect it. So, I just think the way sports are going now, when you’ve got guys who played and played at a high level, you respect it. I know as a fan, when I listen and I know you’ve been there and done that, I respect it.
SLAM: Well, I didn’t play in the NBA, but it’s OK if I say something like, Well, Shaq didn’t shoot his free throws very well last night.
SHAQ: [Laughs] And you know what? That’s a fact and you’ve got to live with that.
SLAM: We just did a special issue—SLAM Presents BATTLES—talking about who would win in different all-time matchups, and one of them was who would win between the 1986 Celtics and the 2000 Lakers.
SHAQ: Oh, we would smash them.
SLAM: You think so?
SHAQ: I know so.
SLAM: Now that you’re retired, how do you think you compare against some of the all-time great players? How would you have done against someone like Kareem?
SHAQ: You know, a lot of people try to compare stuff that can never be compared. I mean, it’s different. I look at his game and the way he played and the way I played, and I think I would kill him. But he was the man of his time, and I was the man of my time. His numbers are up there.
The only thing that upsets me about numbers is that if I wouldn’t have missed those 300 games, I would have passed his numbers by leaps and bounds and then that would make me the number one dominant center ever. Can’t ever get those back. I would have held my own. I’m not really known for defense, so he probably would have got his numbers, but I would have got my numbers, too, because I always got great numbers against great centers. But truthfully, that question can never be answered. We’ll never know. People can always say Kareem would’ve killed me, but in my mind, I think Kareem was too light. I would have given him the one-two, boom-boom, elbow, throw it down.
SLAM: When you watch those really old games, it’s wild because the game seems so different than it does now.
SHAQ: Yep. Wilt Chamberlain was like a ’72 Mercedes 600. I was the 2000-2010 version of the same built Mercedes. Just more technology, more moves. So, people always ask me, “How do you think you would do?” I know I would get mine.
SLAM: Now that you’re officially retired and done playing in the NBA, do you have any regrets?
SHAQ: No. The only regret is that I missed those games. And I missed, like, 5,000 free throws. I could have made a thousand more of them. I’m only like 2,000 points, I think, behind Wilt Chamberlain. If I was averaging like 25, or even 20, those 300 games, that puts me in number two, almost. Those are the only regrets I have. But other than that, no. Did it my way, did it how I wanted to do it, played how I wanted to play, said what I wanted to say, played where I wanted to play, ruffled some people’s feathers and had a great time doing it.