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Transcript of Shaquille O’Neal on D&C: ‘I didn’t want to let the people of Boston down two years in a row’

06.03.11 at 11:06 am ET
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Future Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal called in to the Dennis & Callahan show Friday morning, the day of his scheduled press conference at his Orlando house to formally announce his retirement after one injury-plagued season with the Celtics and 19 years in the NBA.

Asked if this is a happy or sad day, O’Neal said: “A little bit of both. Business-wise, I felt that the Boston organization and the people of Boston treated me very, very well. I could have gotten a little minor surgery and then been out for nine months, but then we would have been in the same situation again, everybody sitting around waiting for me. So, I thought it was great business to let Danny [Ainge] go out and get some younger talent.”

Added O’Neal: “I didn’t want to let the people of Boston down two years in a row.”

Asked if he’s 100 percent certain that he will stay retired, Shaq coyly replied: “For now, yes.”

Following is a transcript of the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The big question is where does Shaq appear on the Mount Rushmore of big men in the NBA. Is that a question you want to deal with?

I never really deal with it. For me, coming from where I come from, how I was taught to play the game ‘€” my father used to mention all those great names to me. Like, “Son, when you block a shot, don’t show off and knock it out of bounds. Keep in inbounds, like the great Bill Russell. Son, I need you to dominate. I need them to change the rules for you like they with Wilt Chamberlain. You know what, son, the jump hook is nice. I need you to shoot the little hook like Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar].”

So, for me to have my name mentioned next to those guys ‘€” and you can’t forget Chief, Robert Parish. He was great. too. So, for me to have my name mentioned up there, it’s a blessing.

The names that are mention are guys that were not exactly user-friendly. You were. You had more fun. You engaged more people. Even in your short time in Boston ‘€” getting out at Harvard Square and doing all those kinds of things ‘€” why did you take that approach when people like Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem were more standoffish as 7-footers that stood out in a crowd?

Well, one, if you know anything about me, you know that I’m a little kid trapped inside a giant body. Growing up, I always was afraid to be tall, so I did little things. That’s why I learned how to dribble and learned how to dance and do those things. Not only that, I was always a class clown.

One day in college, a guy told me that big guys wouldn’t sell, and he mentioned the same names you mentioned. I like being the first to do things. So, I said to myself, why don’t I be the first big man that people can relate to, that people could like. And actually for me, and I think people have seen this for the past 19 years, it’s not an act. What you see is what you get.

Things worked out for about half a year here. You guys were 33-10. When you played 21 minutes, you guys were almost unbeatable. What would have happened had you not gotten hurt?

I think we could have possibly be still playing right now. This is the first time in my career that all the powerhouses were gone. They brought me there to deal with Dwight Howard. [The Magic] were gone. Everybody wanted the [NBA finals] rematch. Then the Lakers got knocked out. I actually thought it was going to be Boston vs. the Spurs. The Spurs were knocked out. So, we only had to get through Miami and then I think it would have been pretty much smooth sailing.

I did everything ‘€” and I mean everything ‘€” to try to get back. The organization, they were very, very supportive. There were times I wanted to play, and I wanted to play hurt, but they told me to get rest. They told me to lose a few pounds and work out and get ready for the playoffs. It just never got right.

Have you allowed yourself in the last couple of days since you made this decision official to have a quiet moment where you’ve sat by yourself and evaluated the depth and the breadth of your career, what you’ve accomplished from a basketball standpoint, what you’ve accomplished financially, what you’ve provided for your family ‘€” the whole depth and breadth of who and what Shaquille O’Neal has been. What are your thoughts on that when you look back on what you’ve done and where you are?

Two things: Obviously, I’m blessed. And the second thing is, I listened. I listened to my parents. I listened to all my coaches I played for. I listened to myself. I listened to you guys. It just drove me. I always wanted to be great. I knew that when I went to places like LA and Boston, I had big shoes to fill. I just wanted to be mentioned with the greats.

Everybody knows that you are multifaceted with the police and the sheriff’s department, you’re going for your Ph.D., you’ve got some businesses and all that stuff. Yet none of those things, I don’t think, scratches the competitive itch that you would have playing in the NBA. Do you anticipate that being a problem at some point when you’re feeling better, and training camp rolls around, or maybe the playoff a year from now, that Shaquille O’Neal will say, “Damn, I really miss the game.”

No, not really, because I was so used to playing at a very, very high level. The last couple of years [my game has been] sort of slipping off. I have a problem with going out there and looking regular. I thought this year, [Rajon] Rondo and them, they used me very well. But trying to play through the injuries ‘€” I actually watched a tape of the game that I played in in Miami, and I actually looked terrible out there.

In the 19 years you played this game, who gave you the most trouble?

Actually, it was the little guys that I could never deal with: [Rick] Mahorn, [Charles] Barkley, [Charles] Oakley. I couldn’t do anything with those guys, because they were very strong, they were very compact and they were very mean. I couldn’t do anything with those guys.

Obviously, the Kendrick Perkins trade, a lot of it hinged on you and your health. From your perspective, how did the Perkins trade affect the team? What if Danny had never pulled the trigger on that? Would you guys still be playing now?

Perkins was a vital part of Boston’s success. A lot of guys were upset, especially the Big Three. They were very upset. I think it was a little bit of a gut blow to us. I think it was a little bit of a gut blow. Jermaine [O'Neal] being a little bit injured, I’m being a little bit injured. So, it was crazy.

You obviously wanted to play on a winner when you got here. It didn’t work out, but if you had decided to come back, do you think this Celtics team, with the Big Three as they get old, do you think they will be competing for a championship next year?

I think if everything goes right. A lot of people weren’t talking about it, but Kevin [Garnett] was very banged up. He never complained. Also a great player, a future Hall of Famer. A lot players were banged up. Paul [Pierce] was banged up there at the end. We just couldn’t get it going.

I know you are weeding through about 150,000 suggestions as to your next nickname. Have you settled on one? Are you going to announce it at your press conference? And would you consider “The Big 401(k)”?

I like that one. I’ve heard that one a lot. But I’ve got a different one that I’m going to announce at the press conference.

So, you’ve already decided?

Yes.

And the press conference is at your house?

Yes.

And it’s going to be a party for everybody down in Orlando?

Yes.

Are you cooking. Because Dwight Howard had a barbecue the other day for everyone in Orlando.

Who? [Laughter]

Are you trying to show him up? Is that what you’re doing today?

Who is that?

That was the guy with the Superman tattoo.

Oh, me?

It was short in Boston but we enjoyed it. Your opportunity here to say your goodbye to Boston in front of all the sports fans who have followed you and enjoyed your career from LSU all the way out to here.

I’m not going to say goodbye, because I never say goodbye, because you guys will see me again. So, I’m going to say peace. I also want to say I love you guys very much, especially the people out in Sudbury, the town I lived in. I used to go to Sudbury Farms every morning. It was just lovely. The people of Boston were very, very hospitable. Sorry I couldn’t deliver for you guys, but I love you guys, I miss you guys, I will definitely see you soon.

We told you in training camp and the offer still stands: If you want to do talk radio, you can get up at 3:45 in the morning and join Gerry and me any morning at 6 a.m. you ‘d like.

No way.

Read More: Bill Russell, Danny Ainge, Dwight Howard, Jermaine O'Neal
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