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Shaquille O’Neal Cements His Legacy

Shaq is an IngrateOver his admittedly illustrious career Shaquille O’Neal has proven himself one of the most dominant big men in the history of basketball. He’s a 4-time NBA Champion, the 2000 NBA MVP, was the ’92-’93 NBA Rookie of the Year, has been a NBA Finals MVP three times, was the NBA scoring champ twice and has earned a trip to 15 All Star games.

You can’t argue with that success. What you can say, though, is that he’s an obnoxious ingrate that doesn’t deserve a lick of it.

Shaq hit the genetic lottery and he’s translated that into a remarkable career. Good for him. But it’s been a decade since we can actually say he worked hard for an entire season. He takes more games off than any player in the league and more often than not shows up to camp woefully out of shape, content to rest on that raw physical supremacy and never push himself to his fullest potential.

He’s never bothered to learn to shoot free throws. He hasn’t made a 12-foot jumper in about four years. He’s never made an effort to foster team chemistry or to get along with teammates or coaches. He’s never put the team before his own bloated, sweaty ego.

He’s fueded with Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson, ending a Lakers dynasty that could have been one of the best in NBA history. He’s made racist remarks about Yao Ming. He’s dug on nearly every former coach and former city and team he’s played for. There’s a reason fans in every city he’s ever played in have learned to hate Shaq shortly after his departure (usually by virtue of a trade demand): he’s an ass. Be careful where you devote your idolatry, Phoenix. You’re next.

As my colleague Brian put it so well last summer, nobody in NBA history better personifies petulance than Shaquille O’Neal.

Of late he’s been spouting off with renewed vigor. His idiot manchild brain unable to process his own increasing irrelevance, he’s lashing out. Hot off his unprovoked attack on NBA good-guy Chris Bosh in which he called the Toronto Raptors center, “the RuPaul of big men,” Shaq proved to be just getting warmed up. O’Neal tried to start a war of words with the gregarious Dwight Howard prior to their meeting on Tuesday, one which Dwight wisely didn’t want anything to do with. Dwight, the NBA’s current best center despite Shaq’s indignance, and the Magic prevailed. Poor Shaq didn’t like it. The big man’s response proved the axiom: jealousy is ugly.

After the game Stan Van Gundy, his former coach from Miami, expressed dismay at a Shaq flop. It’s understandable because not only is O’Neal the biggest man on the floor but he’s also been the most outspoken critic of flops in the NBA for ten years. Van Gundy said after the game, “I was shocked, seriously, shocked. And very disappointed cause he knows what it’s like. Lets stand up and play like men, and I think our guy did that tonight.”

Shaq’s response? Take gutless, pedantic shots at everybody he could think of from Stan Van Gundy to his brother Jeff to Patrick Ewing. The transcript is below. I’ve never understood why he gets such a free pass for his childish behavior and remarks and why the NBA blogosphere is always all-too-eager to yuck it up at the latest instance of “Shaq being Shaq,” but I think we can all agree that this time he’s not just crossed but obliterated the line of decorum, professionalism and adult behavior. The man is an insufferable jackass by any definition of the term.

Can we finally stop shrugging his antics off and call a spade a spade? Shaq is the most classless professional athlete in America.

Read the entire transcript of Shaq’s remarks, after the jump…

Major props to C.Y. Ellis over at Hoops Vibe for the following transcription of Shaq’s response to Stan Van Gundy:

He (Howard) came with the same old, stale Patrick Ewing move so I tried to stand there and take the charge. The new rules say if you come through, you fall. But as I fell, I realized that it was a flop and it reminded me of Coach Van Gundy’s whole coaching career. The one thing I despise is a frontrunner. First of all, none of his players like him. When it gets tough, he will become the master of panic like he did before and he will quit like he did before. The one thing I despise is frontrunners. Yeah, he’s got a young team playing good but don’t be a frontrunner. Him and his brother and even the legend on the bench ain’t done what I’ve done in my whole career. So flopping would be the wrong choice of words.

I just tried to take a charge. The fucking rules say you can’t stand there and get hit. You’ve got to fall. He got the same old stinking move that Patrick Ewing has been doing his whole career. I went down, got up and didn’t complain. I see him and Stan complaining the whole game because they’ve got to. Remember, I’ve done more than him, his brother and Patrick Ewing.

Stan Van Gundy reminds me of a broke navigational system. He knows everything about everything but ain’t never been nowhere. Think about that. If I’m right here and I type in the address of where you’re going, I know where it’s at but I’m not going there.

When a bum says some shit about it and I respond, you can fucking cancel that cuz I know how he is in real life. We’ll see when the playoffs start and he fucking panics and quits like he did when he was here (in Miami). And you fucking print it just like that. Do I look soft to you like you can say something and I’m not going to say something?

Notice they didn’t play me straight up. We’ll see how far they go cuz I know Stan. I said this a long time ago but I was actually talking about him: ’When the general panics, the troops will panic. Like in business, when the head panics and takes out all his stock, what happens?

All the players hate him. The players don’t even like him. I hate frontrunners. I really do. I don’t like any frontrunners. There’s a pecking order involved. I’ve been there six times.

I ain’t going to let no bum like him rip me and not say anything back. You can cancel that shit all the way. Usually, I let shit go. Not that. Not him. Hell no.

The rules say when a guy goes through your chest you’ve got to fall to get the call. It was a flop. You’ve watched me play for 17 years. I don’t play like that.

I’m not going to sit around and let nobodies take a shot at me and he is a nobody to me. And if he thinks he can get in a little press conference and take shots at me like I’m not going to say something back, he’s got another thing coming.

Usually you let things go, Shaq? Strange, I can’t remember that ever happening.

For me it took place long ago, but hopefully for many others that’s the final straw. Hopefully he’s ensured that we don’t remember Shaq for any of his on-court greatness, but as one of the biggest jackasses in sports history. A big, hyper-sensitive child.

As I write this with 1:21 remaining in the Miami-Phoenix game Shaq has just knocked Dwyane Wade to the ground. In trademark Shaq fashion, instead of offering a hand to help his former teammate up (the guy he rode to an NBA Championship), he chose to arrogantly stand over Wade, glaring at him like the big, stubborn mule that he is.

Stay classy, Shaquille.

Related Reading:
Does Anybody Personify Petulance More Than Shaquille O’Neal?
The NBA’s Most Depressing Players of 2008
Shaquille O’Neal Still Keeping it Classy
Shaq Likes to Breath Heavily Into His Cell Phone

Shaq photo credit: Icon SMI

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