Originally published in SLAM 82

The 6th Man: It’s funny. I’ve been here a long time, and in that time I’ve gotten to interview basically everyone I’ve ever wanted to. Michael Jordan. Dominique Wilkins. Allen Iverson. Kevin Garnett. But one guy I’d somehow never gotten to talk to was Shaquille O’Neal. Sure, I’d run into him in countless locker rooms and hallways, occasionally exchanging a pound or giving him a new issue, but whenever it came time to do a story, it ended up going to someone else. These things happen.

But when things went down the way they did this summer, and I knew that Shaq had to get this cover, it was finally my time. I had to do this story. If there was ever a time to talk to the Diesel (above, modeling beach style circa ’93), it was now. It’s still difficult to imagine him moving into Rony Seikaly’s old house and position, giving the Heat their first legit post dominator since Alonzo Mourning left and turning a gritty gut-it-out franchise into immediate title contenders. But it happened. And we needed to hear from Big himself what he was thinking.

So calls were made, and we waited. And waited. And…things were getting awfully tight, but Shaq had the digits, and I just knew he was gonna call back. Knew it. Because, unlike his namesake, the real Chamberweezy, Shaq never adopted a “he against the world” attitude; instead he made the world his. There are two ways you can approach fame—either fight it or embrace it. Shaq, faced with the fact that he’d forever be a recognizable figure, hugged it tight.

So yeah, at t-minus not much and counting, the celly rang. Deep voice. Big. And you could tell he was ready to talk, because questions got rolled over like opposing centers as he unleashed his flow. And he being he, we just ran it (page 84). We hope you like it. For me at least, it was worth the wait.


Russ Bengtson

P.S. All those nice things I wrote last issue about Bill Laimbeer? Never mind. (See page 128 for why.)

SLAM 82 Shaq