Shaq set his feet beyond the 3-point line on a makeshift hardwood court on the Live! Casino floor in Hanover, Maryland in early August. Wearing a blue Ralph Lauren Polo shirt, blue jeans and blue low-top Reeboks, the five-time NBA champion bent his knees, flicked his wrist and proceeded to brick five shots in a row.
As he warmed up for a free throw competition against 77-year-old Live! Casino owner David Cordish, Shaq yelled the name of a different NBA superstar prior to every shot, like a kid shooting jumpers in his or her backyard. “Steph Curry… James Harden… Kobe Bryant… LeBron James,” the Diesel rattled off in front of the media-only crowd.
Later that evening, O’Neal and Cordish went head-to-head from the charity stripe, each sinking 2-of-5 free throws before draining their sudden death shots to end in a tie. O’Neal and Cordish surprised eight casino guests with spots on Team Shaq and Team David, and each lucky team member went home with $1,200.
As a career 52.7 percent free throw shooter, Shaq shot just about as well as you’d expect, finishing 3-6 on the night. Meanwhile Cordish, CEO and Chairman of The Cordish Companies, looked like the favorite to win thanks to his “old man Jerry West form,” as Shaq described during warm-ups.
“I think [Cordish] is a hustler,” O’Neal said. “I feel like Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson in White Men Can’t Jump. He’s hustlin’ me.” Shaq says his favorite scene from the classic hoops flick is when Harrelson’s character loses $5,000 to Snipes after missing the side-of-the-road dunk.
Prior to the shoot-off, the legendary big man spoke about his son Shareef O’Neal’s recent statement that he wants to go one-and-done following his freshman year at University of Arizona.
Shaq said he doesn’t approve of Shareef’s desire to leave college after one year, though the two haven’t sat down and talked about it yet.
“I’d probably urge him against it,” Shaq said. “But I’mma give him the same test my mother gave me. When I came out, when I came to her after my second year [at LSU] and said ‘I wanna go pro,’ she said, ‘Alright, balance this checkbook for me.’ And I couldn’t do it. And she said, ‘You’re not ready to go.’”
The Big Aristotle said he’s going to give Shareef, a five-star recruit from Crossroads School (CA), the very same test that Shaq’s mother gave him.
“So I’mma hit him with that same test, I’mma hit him with certain questions like, ‘What does JV stand for, and what’s a subchapter S corporation.’ I’mma ask him certain business questions, and if he doesn’t pass the test, then I’mma strictly urge him to stay in,” O’Neal said. “Because he doesn’t need the money. If he believes in nepotism, he should never have to worry about money again.”
Shaq also shared his thoughts on the Kyrie situation, joked that he wanted to race Baltimore native Michael Phelps while in town, and spoke highly of the nearby NBA team, the Washington Wizards.
“That’s how you develop a championship mentality. I don’t know a lot of championship teams that kept changing around. Me, Kobe, Rick [Fox], [Brian] Shaw, that core group lost six, seven years in a row. And then when Phil comes in, we finally got it together,” Shaq said. “I know you’re gonna trade a couple pieces now and then. But if you can keep your core together for long periods of time and they can win together, fail together, grow together, then you have a better chance to win a championship.”
Photo via Live! Casino