Shaquille O’Neal’s outsized persona and multitudinous forays into everything from acting to law enforcement sometimes overshadow what an incredible basketball player he was. He ranks fifth in all-time scoring in the NBA, he’s won four national championships (including three consecutive with the Los Angeles Lakers), and he is one of only three players to earn the NBA MVP, All-Star game MVP, and Finals MVP all in one season (the other two were Willis Reed and Michael Jordan). So, to say that his persona sometimes overshadows his basketball playing says a hell of a lot about his persona.
Shaq will be at the Garden District Book Shop this Saturday, Dec. 3, from 12 – 2 p.m. to read from and sign his new memoir, Shaq Uncut: My Story. The book purports to give insight into his “candid thoughts” on various sports celebrities and other topics, but holy shit, I just want to get a picture with Shaq. And I never want to get a picture with anyone (except with Richard Ford while wearing my “Rock Springs, Wyoming” sweatshirt—so, if anyone can help me make that happen, let me know: nathan[at ] press-street.com). Shaq is just so big and funny and awesome. The first two CDs I owned as a kid were Shaq Diesel and Siamese Dream, which came out in the same year (I listened to Shaq Diesel way more than I ever listened to Siamese Dream). I’ve watched Blue Chips at least a dozen times.
This is not to say I doubt Shaq’s abilities to artfully put thoughts and sentences together (though the name of the book’s ghostwriter appears prominently enough on the cover to suggest he had quite a bit of help). The last time the New York Times caught up with Shaq he mentioned that he’s working on his Ph.D. from Barry University, in the Miami suburbs, writing a dissertation titled “How Leaders Utilize Humor or Aggression in Leadership Styles.” His pursuit of higher education has been consistent throughout his career, in part because of a promise he made to his mom, and in part because he realized, as he noted to the crowd at his graduation from Louisiana State University in 2004, that doing so would allow him to “get a real job” after basketball. He currently hosts the TV show “Shaq Vs.” in which he competes against experts in their own fields to prove that he can beat anyone at their own game. Such challenges have included singing against Justin Beiber, monologuing against Jimmy Kimmel, and race car driving against Dale Earnhardt, Jr.