Why I hate Shaq-and why you should too

While ABC executives and bandwagon Miami Heat fans such as Randy Moss and Jamie Foxx bemoaned the Heat’s Game 7 loss to the Pistons Monday night, I couldn’t help but crack a smile. As Shaq walked off the court with a three-month summer vacation ahead of him instead of a chance at ring No. 4, it warmed the cockles of my heart.

I’d like to say it’s nothing personal, but that would be a lie. I don’t have anything against the Heat, per se, and I’m just as in awe of Dwyane Wade as the rest of the league is. My problem is with Shaq.

I know I’m in the minority here. I know Shaq is the media’s darling- everyone’s big, oversized teddy bear. But I have nothing but contempt for the guy.

I didn’t always feel this way; when he first came into the league, he was impossible to dislike. But forgive me if, over the years, I’ve grown more than a little tired of his antics.

I grew tired of him acting like he’s God’s gift, only to see him disappear late in games while the likes of Kobe and Wade bailed him out again and again.

I grew tired of his complaining and hearing him blame his teammates for postseason failures.

I’m tired of his fake interview voice and for all those stupid nicknames he gives himself. Do you think he even knows how to spell ‘Aristotle?’

Shaq is worth disliking almost on sheer principle for “Kazaam,” not to mention his hip-hop career.

But I digress. A few years ago, Sports Illustrated’s Rick Reilly wrote a column about O’Neal, praising the guy for never getting arrested or doing drugs-as if the barometer for being a role model was not being Shawn Kemp.

But I guess that’s what happens when the media loves you; you get all the credit and none of the blame.

Maybe first impressions really do make the most difference. We all loved him when he came into the league, and despite a complete metamorphosis since those first few years in Orlando, no one seems to have noticed that he long ago turned into a complete asshole.

I first noticed the change in the summer of ’96, when he whined his way out of Orlando to go to the West Coast. And from the minute he joined the Lakers, he was no longer Shaq the Loveable Jock, but Shaq the Prima Donna.

Back in 1998, on the way to their second-straight trip to the Finals, the Utah Jazz swept Shaq’s Lakers. Shaq was neutralized against the two Gregs, Ostertag and Foster.

After the series, O’Neal-who, let me remind you once more, had just been handled by the likes of Greg Ostertag and Greg Foster-took no responsibility for the sweep, but instead blasted his teammates, saying something to the effect of “if they don’t want to f***ing play, they can get the f*** off my team.”

And people call the guy a leader.

As far as I’m concerned, that kind of attitude is inexcusable, especially for a guy who would be in the company of Malone, Barkley and Ewing were it not for Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant.

For the past three years, I’ve covered the Utah Jazz for ESPN SportsTicker, and let me tell you, my personal encounters with O’Neal have only reinforced my rather unpopular opinion of him.

The first time the Lakers were in town, and I tried to interview him, Shaq walked out of the locker room and casually pushed his way through dozens of sports writers, as if he were the NBA’s version of Moses parting the proverbial Red Sea. He nearly knocked several people over without even a simple “excuse me.”

The second time the Lakers were in town, he did the same thing, parting the media mob right down the middle and plowing through. This time, another reporter and I managed to ask if he had time for a couple of questions. He said simply, “Get out of my f***ing face.”

Now, if he had called me “b****,” that would really have been something, but I guess the f-bomb was sufficient enough.

Point is, Shaq’s neither the guy nor the player some people want to make him out to be. I resent the fact that he gets away with an offensive foul every single time he makes a move in the low post.

I resent the fact that he has won three Finals MVPs despite routinely falling apart in the fourth quarter of big games. And I resent the fact that anyone has the gall to call him the greatest center of all-time. He doesn’t hold a candle to Wilt Chamberlain or Bill Russell.

Monday night, he didn’t blame his teammates for the loss to the Pistons. He was classy and respectable. Maybe he’s finally growing up now that he’s well into his 30s. Maybe someday he’ll even become likeable again. That’ll be the day.

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