Shaq Uncut: Tales of a former Laker

J.M. Poulard —  December 2, 2011

Stop me if you have heard this before: Shaquille O’Neal has always been entertaining. Whether it’s in his press conferences before or after games, or simply being interviewed by reporters, the man never minced words and always found ways to keep the mood light all the while providing good sound bytes.

And thus, when news broke that O’Neal would be releasing his book, titled Shaq Uncut, it only made sense that most people affiliated with basketball would have an interest in giving it a read.

The Diesel is his usual candid self in Shaq Uncut, relaying stories about how tough his father Sergeant Phillip Harrison was on him during his formative years. We also get to see a lighter and slightly more fragile side of O’Neal when he shares just how shaken up he was with the death of his grandmother while playing for the Orlando Magic.

Also, we are treated to Shaq the father; as he shares details about the personalities of his kids and how much he enjoys being a parent.

But where this book hits home with its readers is through the basketball anecdotes. Indeed, we get details on O’Neal’s high school basketball career as well as the decision making process that landed him in Baton Rouge on the campus of LSU to spend his collegiate career.

And as intriguing as Shaquille O’Neal’s career was, there are a few items in his book that would be of great interest to Lakers fans.

For years, Jerry West was known as Mr. Clutch and he was also the face of the franchise during his playing days as well as for a stretch when he was the Lakers’ general manager. And make no mistake, West was a terrific GM; especially in the eyes of O’Neal.

The future Hall of Fame center takes the time to explain his fallout with the Orlando Magic and how Jerry West essentially understood him and thus helped him decide to come to Los Angeles. In addition, the way Shaq tells it, other than his father, no one seemed to be harder on the big man than the Logo and that help mold him into not only a league MVP but also a three-time Finals MVP long before Phil Jackson had arrived in Los Angeles.

Given all the love and loyalty that the former three-time NBA All-Star Game MVP had for the GM at the time, it was only natural that his relationship with the Lakers would change once West left the franchise.

O’Neal goes on to explain that he never trusted Mitch Kupchak and although Shaq himself does not state it, it does make you wonder if the issues Kobe had with management in the summer of 2007 were a result of the same reservations that Shaq had vis-à-vis the new general manager.

Shaq also revisits his relationship with Kobe in the book and explains some of the twists and turns it faced during his time in Los Angeles. Things became truly bad during the 2003-04 season between them as both of their egos clashed head on.

Although the friction between both has never been a secret, the conflict resolution was intriguing to say the least. O’Neal shares with us an unavoidable meeting that both he and Kobe needed to have in order to restore some sort of order in their relationship as well as the Lakers family. Shaq goes on to cite how a former Lakers player put himself front and center between both he and Bryant to help them patch things up.

The ability to confront such issues head on led to Shaq thinking that this former player would become the next Lakers coach (for the upcoming season), but instead the organization chose Mike Brown; a candidate that O’Neal agreed was good but that he had some reservations about given how certain issues were handled in Cleveland when Brown was the team’s head coach.

In Shaq’s eyes, Kobe Bryant will have the control of the team much like LeBron did in Cleveland. Mind you, the Diesel makes it quite clear that the Cavaliers did far too much to placate the Akron native and that the team suffered to some extent because of it.

But the most intriguing aspect of Shaq Uncut from my perspective is his amount of respect for Kobe. Indeed, the former league MVP may have dropped a few lines here and there with the intent of taking a few digs at Kobe, but it’s clear that O’Neal believes that Bryant is one of the all-time greats and then some.

O’Neal is quick to remind readers that he played with star players such as Penny Hardaway, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Steve Nash, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen; and yet none of them sound even half as good Kobe does in the book.

Shaquille O’Neal explains that Hardaway was soft and also gives some insights on what Wade, James and Nash are missing to truly make it to the next level while he intimates that Kobe is not only there but has been for quite some time.

Ultimately, I would encourage fans of the purple and gold to give Shaq Uncut a read because it gives some clarity on O’Neal’s career as well as his relationships with various NBA related people in each and every stop he has had during his playing days (Orlando, Los Angeles, Miami, Phoenix, Cleveland and Boston).

Shaq provides details on how his relationship with Jerry Buss deteriorated but yet manages to still find a place in his heart for him and gives the impression that he truly appreciates the Lakers heritage as well as how his legacy is tied to it.

Shaq Uncut will undoubtedly ruffle some feathers, but that’s just it; when a family member shares intimate details about the family, it usually causes a stir but ultimately we accept it because it comes from a relative.

And make no mistake, Shaquille O’Neal is part of the Lakers family.

J.M. Poulard