Do you remember the old Shaquille O'Neal?
The one that always had a funny one liner ready when reporters crowded around his locker. The goofy kid whose comedic timing was almost as great as his post-up game.
What happened to that Shaq?
These days, reporters are crowding around his locker for another reason. The Big Aristotle has suddenly shown the world a new persona: The Big Mouth.
From Chris Quinn to Kevin Garnett, nobody is safe from O'Neal's criticism.
Shortly after being traded from the Miami Heat to the Phoenix Suns, Shaquille immediately started throwing his former teammates under the bus.
"We have professionals who know what to do. No one is asking me to play with Chris Quinn and Ricky Davis. I'm actually on a team again," said the newest Sun.
Pat Riley responded, "It's sad he says those things. It's really a shame he would insult those people like that because they gave him care. They cared about him. He can do whatever he wants to me but those men, they tried. That upsets me more than anything."
He would later go onto describe how defenses would leave Quinn and Davis to stop him from getting the ball. He basically humiliated these two men through the media.
Sound familiar? Shaq has a history of doing this. No matter what, Shaq's current team is the best team that he's ever been on and he's happy as hell to be there. The quote is always similar, "I'm very happy to play for this great coach and with these guys. It's going to be great blah blah blah." Then when he leaves, he trashes them.
He did it in Orlando (Penny Hardaway), Los Angeles (Kobe Bryant), and now in Miami.
When asked about Hardaway, Bryant, and Wade during his stint with the Heat, Shaq said, "The difference between those three is in "The Godfather" trilogy. One is Fredo, who was never ready for me to hand it over to him. One is Sonny, who will do whatever it takes to be the man. And one is Michael, who if you watch the trilogy, the Godfather hands it over to Michael. So I have no problem handing it over to Dwyane."
It's definitely obvious that O'Neal has a history of saying whatever he wants, no matter who it affects or offends.
But it's not just his former teammates he has been talking about lately. It's some of the top players around the league.
For example, let's look at his recent comments about Dwight Howard. After Howard won this year's Slam Dunk contest largely in part because of his popular "Superman dunk", the Orlando Magic center was dubbed Superman by some. However, Shaq coined this nickname years ago and despite the fact that the nickname has barely stuck with Howard since the All-Star break, O'Neal still felt the need to say something.
"Superman is still mine," O'Neal said last week. "He [Howard] has to do something first to be called Superman. Anyone can win a slam-dunk contest. The real Superman is dead. He was assassinated by Pat Riley [in Miami]."
So let's get this straight. When he went to Miami, he stated that Pat Riley was the best coach he had ever played for, a clear knock on his former Laker coach, Phil Jackson. Now that he is in Phoenix, he is disrespecting Riley?
So not only is he taking a shot at his former coach (who he once called "the great Pat Riley"), he is also dissing Howard who has nothing to do with him. What good does this comment do? And seriously, is Superman still yours Shaq? You can barely get off of the ground anymore, nonetheless fly.
But no, Howard isn't the only person Shaq has talked about. Last month, he made comments about another top big man. This time, his target was Boston Celtic forward, Kevin Garnett. During an interview, he said he would put teammate Amare Stoudemire ahead of Kevin Garnett in terms of the MVP race. That's understandable considering most guys name a teammate if you ask for their MVP vote.
But Shaq had to keep talking. "Garnett doesn't play defense," said O'Neal. What? The defensive anchor of one of the league's top defensive teams doesn't play defense? Has Shaq been watching the same NBA that the rest of us have this season?
Sometimes I wonder if Shaq just says things to be controversial. Is he trying to get attention and stir the pot? Does he like to see his name in the headlines? Or is he dead serious and just jealous that he's no longer on the level of guys like Howard and Garnett? Does it bother him that he isn't the cornerstone of a franchise like he once was?
All I know is that I used to love Shaq interviews. Back when he was funny and personable, I would just watch him and laugh. But now, when I look at his recent comments, I see a man with an extremely big ego who needs to learn when to keep his mouth shut.
In kindergarten, we learn the phrase, "If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say it at all." Most of us grow up, sharpen our social skills and learn how to interact with others appropriately. But with Shaq, the only thing that seems to have aged is his body and as his talent deteriorates, he seems to be taking out his anger on others through the media.
So Shaq, please just take this advice: Grow up. Many people who have your frame and skill set have been given the nickname "Baby Shaq". But recently, the only Baby Shaq I've seen is suiting up for the Phoenix Suns and he needs to learn when to keep quiet.
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