Featured Gallery, Latest News, NBA / Jun 2, 2011 / 8:00 am

Shaq: A Sit-Down With The Last Don

Shaquille O'Neal

Shaquille O'Neal (photo. Chenoa Maxwell)

For his first and only Dime cover story in Dime #38 (December 2007/January 2008), we wanted to get Shaquille O’Neal‘s take on his legacy, the new crop of NBA big men waiting in the wings and some of the most pressing issues facing the League, and basketball in general, at the time. I spoke to Shaq towards the end of the exhibition season one day after practice. His Heat squad was facing an uncertain future, knowing that Dwyane Wade would be out until at least mid-November, and the interview took place shortly before the team jettisoned Antoine Walker to Minnesota for Ricky Davis in an effort to keep afloat until Wade came back…

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Dime: For your cover shoot, you had a specific theme in mind. You wanted to be portrayed as “The Godfather” of the NBA. Why did you pick that premise?
Shaq: We all like those movies growing up – Godfather, Scarface, movies like that. That theme is big with me. I’m in charge. I have an RV with Godfather and Scarface stuff painted all over it that I drove myself from Orlando to LSU for a football game this year. People damn near ran off the road when they saw me.

Dime: How does the Godfather theme relate to you in terms of basketball and the NBA?
Shaq: I’ve paid my dues in this game to become the most dominant big man in NBA history. I came in and took out all of the great centers standing in my way, from Ewing to David Robinson to Hakeem Olajuwon. And now all of these young guys have come in looking to take me out, doing whatever they can to take me out, whining and crying. But it’s not happening.

Dime: Who, specifically?
Shaq: Yao Ming, Dwight Howard, guys like that. But it’s not so much them whining. It’s their coaches and their team owners. They’ve had to change the rules of the game just to deal with me.

Dime: How so?
Shaq: The Board of Governors meets every year to go over the rules, and every year they only have one problem – and that’s me. Their teams can’t stop me so they have to come up with ways to change the game to try and stop me. The way they look at it, the rules might not be good for me, but I’m just one player. I’m just one player, while 200, 300 other players benefit. For example, I’m the only player in the League that gets fronted and backed night in and night out.

Dime: Has it worked?
Shaq: Not yet. Maybe when I’m 50.

Dime: Do you think you get the credit you deserve for your skills?
Shaq: No. Absolutely not. Because of the rules, I can’t showcase my skills. And because I don’t show my skills, people don’t think I can do it. But I have the spins and the crossovers and all that Hakeem stuff. I’m programmed to do it all, baby. If tomorrow, David Stern said no more double- and triple-teams on me, people would be like “Holy shit! Shaq can do that?!”

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  • heckler

    ATTN ALL–

    Does Shaq rank higher than Hakeem Olajuwon on the all-time great centers list?

    Can Shaq be anything better than 4th alltime?

    I heard these rankings as recently as this morning:

    Bill Russell
    Wilt Chamberlain
    Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
    Hakeem Olajuwon
    Shaquille O’Neal

    hmmm….do you all agree with those rankings?

  • kyballer312

    I guess it depends on the criteria of those rankings. Rings? Game impact? What are we using if it’s rings then he has to be at least 3rd. If its game impact (rules enacted to help defend you) then he is 2nd. I can’t put him any higher than 4th myself

    1. Bill Russell (winningest ever)
    2. Wilt Chamberlain (rule changer)
    3. Hakeem Olajuwon (smoothest)
    4. Shaquille O’Neal (most forceful)
    5. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (best offensive weapon)

  • Ian

    depends on how u rank em
    if i go by in their primes using the 90s center i like them
    admiral
    hakeem
    shaq

    if i add how long they did it and accomplishments i would rank them
    shaq
    hakeem
    admiral

    since i have to take everything in consideration it should be shaq hakeem admiral.

    kyballer
    kareem 5th??

    heckler
    i know im the only one thats going to say this but i have russell like 6th alltime on my centers list.

  • http://www.dimemag.com Aron Phillips

    To echo what David Stern said yesterday, there will never be another Shaq.

  • K Dizzle

    Ian

    11 rings automatically put Russell no.1
    You can’t downgrade player based on the era he played in.
    Wilt’s numbers should put him 2nd.
    Kareem’s combination of numbers n rings put him 3.
    I don’t know why Hakeem always gets put in front of Shaq.
    Career:Shaq – 24pts, 11rbs, 3 as, 2.7 blks, 58% FG, 4 rings
    Career:Hakeem -22pts, 11rbs, 2.5as, 3 blks, 51%FG, 2 rings
    So Shaq ahead of Hakeem

  • Ian

    Dizzle
    Going by that russell should be 1 overall then. If you rank jordan or someone else ahead of him your list is kinda off. Now to you is russell the greatest ever? If yes then ok if no then I can rank him 6th.

  • Nyeme

    I would have

    1. Wilt – ridiculous stats
    2. Kareem – leading scorer, rings
    3. Russell – rings, but other than that….
    4. Dream – if I was starting a team, I would take Dream over Shaq
    5. Shaq

  • Soopa

    Its so tough comparing Russells/Wilts era to the current. I mean wouldnt Shaq absolutely destroy the competition back then?

    To me its Hakeem vs Shaq in the current era. Ewing and Robinson doesnt quite make the cut.

    If Hakeem had the personality of Shaq wouldnt he declare himself M.D.E.? I mean Hakeem cleaned the floor with Robinson, Shaq, Ewing, all in their prime, and they are all Hall of Fame players!

    I dont wanna decide between them. They are both dominate but with completely different styles, finesse vs power.

  • alex “robocop” murphy

    I like Hakeem over them all. I just think the quality of centers he faced in his prime was better than what Shaq has faced over his career.

    Hakeem over Ewing, Dikembe, Daugherty, Alonzo, Parish, Willis, Robinson, Campbell, Divac, Smits,

  • Ian

    Soopa
    Check the head to head stats and wins of hakeem vs robinson and shaq and tell me again if he cleaned the floor with them. Basketball reference has the head to head stats. Hakeem only desstroyed ewing (so did robinson and shaq) the others he played to a draw stats wise cuz he lost most games vs them.

    I personally like dream and the admiral more than shaq but there’s no way he ranks lower than any of them alltime.

    Btw wtf is up with the robinson (mvp, champ, scoring tile, defensive player of the year, rookie of the year) vs ewing (nothing) comparison?

  • heckler

    @ Ian–

    Bill Russell 6th best all time center?
    You do know that Bill Russell is 2nd all time in total rebounds right? SECOND EVER?
    ..and thats in an era of better shooters when there were less overall rebounds

  • Ian

    heckler
    “and thats in an era of better shooters when there were less overall rebounds”
    shit im sorry man but shoulda done some googling before posting that bs. teams back then shot high 30s and low 40s. they still avged over 110ppg shooting like crap imagine how many boards are available in a game like that. rodman has the highest rebound percentage in the nba and he avged around 7 rebs less than russell doesnt that tell you something about your era of better shooters and less rebounds. yeah hes second ever in total rebounds and??? he couldnt score like the other centers thats why i have him that low. again thanks for that made up fact you just posted there.

  • Ian

    sorry i meant “you shoulda done some googling”