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Archive for Sunday, April 29, 2001

Shaq takes some free shots in memoir

April 29, 2001

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Much has been written about the feud between Los Angeles Lakers star basketball center Shaquille O'Neal and teammate Kobe Bryant, and it was even reported in January that Shaq had asked to be traded.

O'Neal all 7 feet, 1 inch and 330 pounds of him discusses that situation and much more in "Shaq Talks Back" (St. Martin's, 259 pages, $23.95).

O'Neal praises Bryant as a great player, but writes that Bryant too often tried to be a hero, going for the spectacular play when he simply should have passed the ball to an open teammate.

Although O'Neal thinks that he and Bryant are too different to ever be close friends, he recognizes their common desire to win.

O'Neal writes that he didn't respect former coaches Del Harris and Kurt Rambis because they treated Bryant differently from other players, allowing him to do anything he wanted.

But after his first meeting with coach Phil Jackson, O'Neal felt Jackson would provide the leadership and discipline needed to bring the Lakers a championship. He believed that Jackson knew how to push the right buttons, cut out the nonsense and get the players to do what he wanted.

Jackson also mediated the feud, urging O'Neal to be more patient with Bryant.

A game-by-game rundown of last year's playoffs includes the Lakers' dramatic win against the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 7 of the third round, a game Los Angeles won after trailing by 15 points in the fourth quarter. After the Lakers beat the Indiana Pacers 116-111 for the championship, O'Neal cried on the court. He writes that the championship finally washed away all the pain inflicted by critics who said he could never win the big game.

O'Neal comes across as very human. He knows he is a role model, but admits that he has made mistakes. He is also one of the few athletes who admits that money is important, that it equals respect in the NBA. He thinks a player looks bad if he makes less money than a less-talented player.

He is also honest enough to address his ineffectiveness at shooting free throws something he can't explain, despite years of practice and advice.

The book's narrative is frequently punctuated by letters from friends and family members who express their opinions at various times in O'Neal's life. It's an unusual and effective technique.

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