On Friday night, Sept. 9, Shaquille O’Neal was formally inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame alongside Allen Iverson, Yao Ming and seven other NBA legends.
At the induction ceremony, Shaq regaled the crowd as only Shaq could with stories from his youth and his playing days to the delight of all in attendance.
But of all the hilarious anecdotes and new information he revealed during his speech, the most interesting soundbite from the big man may have come during his exclusive interview with Michael Rapaport, host of the I AM RAPAPORT: STEREO PODCAST on CBS Radio’s Play.it podcast network.
Shaq caught up with Rapaport at the IAB Upfronts last week and discussed a number of topics, one of them of course being Shaq’s induction into the NBA Hall of Fame.
While nobody was shocked that Shaq was voted into the Hall of Fame, apparently Shaq was the least surprised of anybody. That’s because, as Shaq tells it, he knew that he’d be going to the NBA Hall of Fame when he was in elementary school.
Rapaport asked Shaq when he knew he’d be a Hall of Famer, to which he said “elementary” school, but quickly pointed out it was actually his father who was so certain of his son’s abilities that he knew he’d be a Hall of Famer at that age.
“My father knew,” Shaq said. “He used to work me out, like he used to make me do all of this karate kid type sh**. He used to be like, ‘jump on top of the counter and grab that plate, but don’t break it.’ He’d always help me out working on my hands, working on my jumper, so I did a lot of stuff like that.”
Besides having immense confidence in his son and helping teach him the fundamentals of the game, he also introduced him to legends of the game at a young age so he could watch and learn from the best.
“My dad’s like you,” Shaq told Rapaport. “He’s a basketball nut, he was a basketball historian. Loved the Knicks. So when Pat (Ewing) came on the team, I definitely had to watch Pat. And the first shot I shot was the sky hook. I’m six, seven years old and I was shooting sky hooks on all the other little kids and I said ‘I don’t want to do this sh** anymore. Then I see Pat Ewing – knee pads, mean, long socks, the Hoyas – and I was like, ‘I can do this.’
So even though Ewing was Shaq’s inspiration, once Shaq got onto his level in the NBA, he went hard at Ewing and did his best to overtake him and become the best big man in the game.
“Also growing up as a youngster you grow up watching these karate movies,” Shaq said. “And in karate movies, the student, in order to become the master, has to take out the master. So I was like, if I want to be the man, I gotta kill the man. I read a quote one time that said ‘you show people respect by showing them none.’ So I was like, ‘I’m gonna respect you, you Pat… but I’m Shaq.”
But it wasn’t always easy for Shaq to go head-to-head with his idols without reverence for them and it got him in a fair amount of trouble with his father one time.
“I actually got in trouble with my dad one day because one of my other idols, I showed him too much respect in the finals and the result was we got swept,” Shaq explained. “Hakeem Olajuwon. You know how I played, I was in their face, I was in their mouth, but Hakeem was just so good to me I was just trying to play him straight up rather than go to the Shaq ‘brick city’ game and my father ripped me a new one.”
You can listen to the entire interview with Shaq and find more episodes of the I AM RAPAPORT: STEREO PODCAST here.