Trying to figure out the mind behind Shaquille O'Neal has never really been as challenging as, say, figuring out what the man is actually saying.
Sure, you may be thrown off at first by how the guy who made his stamp in the public eye with off-the-cuff interviews—often mocking his own sense of bravado, telling people what they wanted to hear, and, essentially, trying to put a big, fat smile on everyone's face—would be the same guy who resorted to vindictiveness and was generally unaccountable.
That is, until you smacked yourself in the head for even considering it.
Which is why, for all the nicknames that Shaq delighted us with over the years, he will forever be remembered as "The Big Child."
Throughout his NBA career, Shaq was a man who just wanted to have fun, a guy who loved to be liked and a person who never really understood how much he valued respect until it was denied to him.
Why would he?
Consider his size. He's been bigger than everyone for most of his life. Surely, that must have benefited him on many different levels.
Consider his God-given athletic ability. Shaq was probably the first pick in every sport he ever played since he was a kid, with the possible exception being dodge ball.
Finally, consider his childhood. Shaq never got a chance to know his biological father because he wasn't there, and nothing leaves a void in a child's sense of worth like parental abandonment.
Ultimately, these factors help us understand how Shaq's new tell-all book, which is appropriately —if not humorously—titled "Shaq Uncut," is more of a testament to his shortcomings than his successes.
One of the 10 best basketball players of all time played for six different franchises during the course of his career. If that doesn't sound strange to you, then consider the fact that no other Top 10 player was ever on more than three teams.
Shaq left the Orlando Magic for the greener pastures and limelight of Los Angeles, where he won three championships with the 2000-03 dynasty Lakers.
Then, the following year, Shaq came to camp insanely out of shape, had a hurt big toe and basically sealed his fate, proclaiming, "I got hurt on company time and I will recover on company time."
That year, the Lakers lost to the underdog Detroit Pistons and Shaq was sent off to Miami.
Once in Miami, Shaq won a championship with D-Wade in his second year with the team, and, once again, showed up to camp the following year ridiculously out of shape.
In Shaq's book, he knocks both Kobe Bryant and coach Pat Riley for being unprofessional in how they addressed this matter with him, but even he had to acknowledge that the growing tension between them was predicated on his lack of conditioning.
Besides that, does anyone really need to be reminded of how insanely competitive Bryant and Riley are? I mean, you could argue all day long how close the distance is between Bryant and Michael Jordan in the GOAT (greatest of all time) race, but you can't argue that they are both insanely competitive.
Not to mention, Bryant is doing whatever he can to facilitate a new bargaining agreement in New York as we speak, just so he can get back on the court. And when it comes to Riley, Jordan even said himself, in his Hall of Fame speech, that Riley is just as competitive as he is.
Did Shaq really think these guys were going to just step aside while he went about his famous routine of shutting down until the playoffs came around?
Shaq eventually left both the Lakers and the Heat on bad terms.
While in Phoenix, many questioned how the addition of a half-court player like Shaq would fare on a full-court team like Phoenix—and, to no one's surprise, it didn't end well.
Instead of providing the Suns with an anchor in the middle, Shaq was more like the anchor to their ship.
Shaq may not have left the Suns on bad terms, but does anyone remember that Shaq Vs. show from a few years ago? Well, he stole it from Steve Nash, who was initially slated to do it. That's some food for thought.
Afterward, Shaq made it to Cleveland, arguably fatter than ever, and provided nothing more than role player production.
Finally, in Boston last year, Shaq showed up relatively in shape, but the collective damage of years of bad conditioning eventually caught up to him, and he never even made a guest appearance in the playoffs.
If there is a theme in the mix here, it's that the only two teams Shaq had championship success with sent him packing because of his direct lack of cooperation, while the last three had to suffer for his indirect lack of cooperation, which was his inability to take better care of himself.
As we look back on all the years that Shaq graced us with every excuse in the book as to why he needed to shut himself down until the playoffs, it's surprising that he played as long as he did.
Now, don't get me wrong; I'm not saying that Shaq is a bad guy. Far from it!
In fact, I would bet anyone that Bryant, who happens to be my favorite player in the NBA, would be a complete jerk to be around compared with Shaq.
But, alas, that was the true difference between those guys. One was in it for the respect, while the other just wanted to be liked.
Shaq's personality is why, many years from now, we will all remember his induction speech into the Hall of Fame. I wish I could say the same about Jordan's words.
In his speech, I expect Shaq will be genuine and funny. He may even make a slight spectacle of himself.
And it wouldn't surprise me in the least if he even threw a couple of kind words to the guys whom he left the league on bad terms with.
Because, at the end of the day, that's who Shaq is—someone who we love for not taking himself, or life, too seriously.
For better, or for worse.