MIAMI — I’ve done a lot of interviews on this job and I’ll do a lot more in the years to come. But I don’t think any will match my Shaqtastic experience in August of 2006. Alonzo Mourning was putting on a charity golf tournament in Westchester, N.Y., and Shaq was going to be there. So I went up and was able to get him one-on-one.
He was sitting on the patio of Trump National Golf Club, kicking back and smoking a cigar. We started talking about the Heat’s championship two months earlier and he proceeded to tell me the profanity-laced secret to motivating Dwyane Wade. He gave me a newsy quote on Pat Riley’s uncertain status as head coach and capped off the interview with a hilarious quip about Yao Ming’s “perfect” English.
Fortunately, the interview is still up.
Steve Luhm of the Salt Lake Tribune tweeted something today about Shaq being “the last truly approachable, old-school superstar,” and I wholeheartedly agree. He was always easy and enjoyable to talk to, and never short on quotes that you can use. I don’t think there’s another star player like that in the league right now.
Most guys are afraid to put themselves out there like he did. Whether it be his All-Star practice dance-off with LeBron James and Dwight Howard, his routine with the JabbaWockeez, or a silly one-liner that cracked up a media scrum, he was always ready to entertain.
On the court, I think Shaq was top-10 all-time. At his best, he was absolutely dominant. In the Lakers’ three-peat, he averaged 35.9 points, 15.2 rebounds and 2.9 blocks, while shooting 60 percent in 15 Finals games. He was huge, quick and athletic, a force on both ends of the floor. And I have no clue how he only won one MVP award.