Jermaine O’Neal: ‘I Wasn’t Doing Enough to Earn My Money’

J.O. claims that he hadn’t realized just how much bank he was making over the last few years, but admits that it was a tad much for the amount of production he was putting out. The Boston Globe reports: “Early on, it was easy for O’Neal to believe the golden faucet would never stop running. He had a max deal. He had Nike ad campaigns crafted around him. He was making All-Star teams and All-NBA teams. ‘It was sweet,’ he said. At the same time, the Pacers were a force, even if their average age was just 26. They won 61 games in 2003-04, and if they hadn’t lost to the Pistons in the conference finals, they would have reached the NBA Finals essentially without even glancing at the instruction manual. ‘It’s funny, because we were so high on everything,’ O’Neal said. ‘We were all young. We had just come off having the best record in the league and we basically ran through the league not having that much experience. So the next year, we went into camp saying we were going to win it all this year.’ The Pacers had given O’Neal a seven-year, $126 million contract — both a blessing and a bull’s-eye — but he had no problem being the face of the franchise. In fact, he said he was practically oblivious to how handsome his checks were. ‘I didn’t even realize until this summer that over the last seven years I was one of the top three paid players in the entire NBA,’ O’Neal said. ‘I never knew that. I never looked at that money as being pressure. To be honest, towards the last two or three years, I felt like I wasn’t doing enough to earn my money. I’m very critical of myself.'”