5 Reasons Shaq and Other Athletes Refer to Themselves in the Third Person

Amelia AhlgrenContributor IIIFebruary 22, 2012

5 Reasons Shaq and Other Athletes Refer to Themselves in the Third Person

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    "Illeism," or the act of referring to oneself in the third person, is an epidemic in the sports world.

    Unfortunately for humanity, the cure is still unknown.

    But if we're forced to listen to these guys drone on about an embodiment of themselves, we might as well guess why they do it.

    Here are five reasons some athletes are allergic to using the word "I."

Lag in Linguistic Development (Immaturity)

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    Livestrong.com describes the stages of "syntactic development." You know, when babies will say "go-ed" instead of went or "fall-ed" instead of "fell."

    Children also go through a stage where they refer to themselves in the third person.

    Think Elmo.

    Some athletes who refer to themselves in the third person actually suffer from the scientific condition known as "extreme immaturity."

    Like LeBron James, who at age 25 used a nationally-televised broadcast to announce his decision to join the Miami Heat.

    In the soundbite above, James explains, "I wanted to do what was best, you know, for LeBron James, and what LeBron James was gonna do to make him happy."

    But don't worry Heat fans, this condition may be cured with age.

Reflection of Egomania

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    This one's pretty obvious.

    Most athletes who use the third person to refer to themselves, do so because of a raging ego.

    And the media thrives off of their larger-than-life personas.

    During the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine, for example, Cam Newton's practice of self-love was a hot topic.

    The Heisman Trophy winner referred to himself in the third person several times, and went as far to say, "I see myself not only as a football player, but an entertainer and icon.''

    Cam Newton, ladies and gentlemen. The 22-year-old icon.

Amp-Up Technique

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    Sometimes, athletes need a good pep talk.

    And where better to get that motivation than from yourself?

    This behavior is especially necessary if you participate in a more individualized sport.

    And it occurs often in tennis.

    Maybe you can only hear it because the crowd is so quiet, but if you attend a match, say one involving Andre Agassi, you're likely to hear something along the lines of, "for Christ's sake, Andre, follow through on your serve!"

    Agassi discusses the need for self-motivation in tennis in his autobiography, "Open,"

    "Tennis is the sport in which you talk to yourself. No athlete talks to themselves like tennis players. Pitchers, golfers, goalkeepers, they mutter to themselves, of course, but tennis players talk to themselves -- and answer ... Why? Because tennis is so damned lonely ... of all the games men and women play, tennis is the closest to solitary confinement."

Pure Intimidation

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    For athletes who live to intimidate their opponents, using the third person is just a natural part of their swag.

    Unlike those who are simply egomaniacal or speaking with bravado, these guys have the resume to back it up.

    Here's a rule of thumb: if you can smell what The Rock is cookin', you should not enter into an athletic contest with him.

    As much as I loathe to admit it, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. fits this category.

    In the clip above, Mayweather asserts, "Without the fans, Floyd Mayweather wouldn't be where he's at today."

    And then, "I'm one of the best fighters to ever live."

    Knowing those two lines means you will never have to watch a Mayweather interview again.

    But the boxer boasts an undefeated professional career. He has earned the right to say this stuff.

    And we should all be very afraid.


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    Athletes are at their best when pure silliness motivates their third-person self references.

    Shaquille O'Neal is the king of this.

    Antics characterize the four-time NBA champ, and his third-person speech style fits right in with this persona.

    Though some may accuse Shaq of using the third person out of hubris, I assure you it's just his goofy nature.

    There's no way anyone could take themselves seriously after appearing in the movie Kazaam.

    Because Shaq is good for much more than just a single illeistic quote, here's Sports Center's compilation of his best. Enjoy.


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