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Shaq on D&C: ‘I would have played for free’ in Boston

Posted By WEEI On September 28, 2010 @ 8:49 am In General | 3 Comments

Shaquille O'Neal (AP)

Shaquille O'Neal (AP)

In an appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show, new Celtics center Shaquille O’Neal, who has made no less than $10 million in his last 14 NBA seasons and at least $20 million in his last nine campaigns, said that he had no problem taking a pay cut in excess of 90 percent in order to come to the Celtics. O’Neal signed a two-year deal for approximately $3 million this summer, and he suggested that money was virtually irrelevant in making his decision to join Boston.

“I had other options where the money would have been greater. But this franchise, this team, has a tradition of winning,” O’Neal said. “I’ve been one of the luckiest guys in the history of the game. I’ve had four max deals and one lifetime of play. So money wasn’t an issue. Money will never be an issue. But Danny Ainge had $1 million left, which was the minimum. If I had to, to come here and play, I would have played for free. Doesn’t matter to me.”

O’Neal — who said that he wanted to be called The Big Shamrock while with the Celtics — also discussed whether he will be able to “blend in” in Boston both on and off the court, his bucket list, his experience of last year’s Celtics-Cavaliers playoff series from Cleveland’s perspective and his feelings on Dwight Howard and LeBron James, among several other topics.

A transcript is below. To listen to the complete interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page [1].

This is Shaquille O’Neal. Don’t mess with Dennis & Callahan, weekdays from 6-10 on the WEEI Sports Radio Network.

Skip the boring basketball questions. Is Boston big enough for your personality?

I always tell people that I was raised Karate Kid style. My father took me many places as a youngster. I started off in Northern New Jersey, born and raised. Went down south to Hinesville, Ga., then to West Germany, then to San Antonio, Tex. I say that to say that I can blend in anywhere.

You probably can’t blend in.

I can blend in. If people are looking for me in Boston, I’ll be in Sudbury. If you’re looking for the Big Shamrock, he’ll be in Sudbury, in the fields of Sudbury.

You’ve settled on the Big Shamrock?

Yes. The Big Shamrock. Yes.

You still want to be a radio talk show host when you’re done with basketball?

Yes.

In the morning.

Morning, evening, afternoon.

Morning is harder. What time do you roll out?

About 10.

That’s mid-day or afternoon.

What time you guys get up?

About 3:45.

Oh, no, none of that. I don’t get in until 3:45.

Not to get personal with money, but you’ve been making more than $20 million a year for 10 straight years. This year, you’ll make, like, $37,500. Did that change your approach?

Not at all. I had other options where the money would have been greater. But this franchise, this team, has a tradition of winning. I’ve been one of the luckiest guys in the history of the game. I’ve had four max deals and one lifetime of play. So money wasn’t an issue. Money will never be an issue. But Danny Ainge had $1 million left, which was the minimum. If I had to, to come here and play, I would have played for free. Doesn’t matter to me.

You’re close to that.

Yes I am.

Does dislike enter the equation against the Heat or the Lakers?

No. Never.

You get why everyone hates the Heat this year?

No. No.

You don’t get that?

I don’t. Not at all.

What about Orlando? You have a problem with Dwight Howard calling himself Superman?

Anyone who calls themselves me has big shoes to fill. He can call himself whatever he wants, but if you call yourself me, you’ve got big shoes to fill.

Are you prepared to pace yourself? As the oldest guy in the league, you can’t go out all the time.

I can. When I go out, I’m very, very 1,000 percent responsible. When I go out, I just sit in the corner and drink water. I don’t drink or smoke. A lot of times, I’ll just go and hang out. My rule has always been to come in by 2, wherever I’m at. Doc is real good with the sleep thing. Let’s just say I went out, got home to Sudbury at 3. Practice is at 11. Still got six, seven hours of sleep. In answer to your question, yes. My routine is to come here, come to practice, go home, take a nap, then I work out at the Thoreau Club, I think that’s in Concord. I go there and swim and do extra work, then I just go home.

You don’t drink at all?

No.

Ever?

No.

Not a beer?

No.

Not curious?

No. Not allowed to.

Your faith?

No, I’m the son of a military drill sergeant. He would kill me.

He doesn’t drink?

No.

Would you be offended if Doc told you that you’ll be most needed at the beginning of the season with Kendrick Perkins out, then again at the end, and that you can glide through the middle?

When I first came into the league, it was all about ‘I, I, I.’ Scoring titles, a lot of points, a lot of rebounds. Now, at the tender age of 38, it is not about ‘I.’ I have taken care of ‘I.’ I’ve really put myself in the history books. So now, it is all about ‘we.’ It’s all about the Celtics, all about the city of Boston. Doc doesn’t really have to have the conversation with me. He can just tell me what he wants me to do. Whatever he wants me to do, whatever the team wants me to do, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m not here to take 30 shots, not here to dominate the ball, not here to play like I’ve been playing. I’m just here to help. At the tender age of 38, I don’t mind doing that.

What do you enjoy about Boston?

The people here have always been very hospitable. It’s a great town. I chose to live in Sudbury. I’ve got a nine-acre property that I can just go, jog in the grass, have a good time, just sit there, look at the snow and just meditate.

You drive yourself around?

No. No. No.

Good move. If you leave Sudbury and come in to town to eat, would you be eating Italian in the North End? Seafood on the Waterfront? Somewhere else?

I just bought into the Buca Italian restaurant chain. So I would probably be eating at Buca Italian restaurant joints and I’ll probably be eating at Legal’s. The clam chowder at Legal’s is lovely.

Of all the stuff you’ve done, what’s the coolest thing you’ve done aside from winning championships?

Like I said earlier, I’m one of the luckiest guys in the world. I can remember growing up, my father taking me out. He used to scream, like, three names at me, from seven to 12. He always used to say, ‘You’ve got to block shots like Bill Russell. You’ve got to shoot the sky hook like Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar]. You’ve got to dominate like Wilt Chamberlain.’ From, like, seven to 10, I was always saying, ‘Who in the hell is he talking about?’ But then as I started playing, then getting into the NBA, and then one day standing at an All-Star game and hearing the great Bill Russell say, ‘Can I talk to you?’ saying, ‘You’re a great player and you need to do this and you need to do that.’ It was lovely. I couldn’t wait to get to the locker room and say, ‘Daddy, Bill Russell just said I was a great player. What do I do?’ ‘Keep it up, dummy.’

Do you have a bucket list?

I’m in school to receive my doctorate. Hopefully I will graduate next year. That will be one thing. Another thing is run for sheriff in a small town. I wanted to go the FBI or the US Marshal Academy, but I had a meeting this summer and the age limit is up on that, so I probably can’t do that, but it’s only four or five things.

Will you assist the police around here?

I haven’t had that conversation. Maybe, maybe not.

What’s your perspective on the Cavs-Celtics playoff series last year?

Being on the Cavaliers team, it was an excellent team. We didn’t have any problems. We were a close-knit group. I will truthfully have to say that was a year where we just didn’t win it. There wasn’t any problems, like on some teams where a couple guys are bickering. Everybody got along well and we just got up against a hungrier veteran team. We couldn’t win. We had a great year all year. I went down for 15, 20 games, LeBron did a great job of leading the guys, we still had the No. 1 spot, first two rounds, we did well. Then we just faced a team that everybody counted out all year. You can never count out Mr. Garnett or The Truth, because those two guys, when they get mad, they’re unstoppable.

Do you think LeBron James gave 100 percent, max effort, in every game against the Celtics?

Yes. Yes. I think he did.

Did you know that he was leaving?

No. No. No.

Feel bad for Cleveland?

Yes I do. Great city, great organization, the owner is great. A lot of times in sports, you don’t see the little guy, the little kid, who becomes a hometown hero, plays for the hometown professional team and he’s our savior. To some people in Cleveland, the savior has left.

His tattoo looks like yours. Who had them first?

Me. I was actually the one who got everybody getting into tattoos.


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