Sportsman's Daily


Shaquille O’Neal Taking Off Entire Off-Season Too


Shaquille O'Neal demonstrates off-season game face, which is usually followed by a bone-weary sigh and a two hour "power" nap.

MIAMI, FL (The Sportsman's Daily Wire Service) – Thirty-five year old Shaquille O’Neal played the better part of the regular season like an aging opera star protecting his vocal chords. But by the time the 2007 playoffs rolled around, the Miami Heat couldn’t have done worse if they had Italian tenor Pavarotti in the paint, getting swept in the first round by the Chicago Bulls.

A heated debate was triggered last week when Miami Heats head coach Pat Riley, after being asked about O'Neal's tendency to go half-tilt during the regular season, said, "If he wants to give back $10 million and play half a season, then fine."

Shaq publicly shrugged it off and inaudibly mumbled something about his plans for the off-season – which typically entails an endless cycle of public appearances, commercial shoots, lavish Caribbean vacations, star-studded parties and galas and, yes, even house chores. But according to friends and associates, Shaq has been unable – perhaps unwilling -- to commit to the off-season, his lack of focus and energy in mid-season form.

“He just can’t take it seriously,” said an unnamed friend. “There’s nothing you can say or do to get the big guy motivated. It might as well be the seventeenth game of the season, you’re in Minneapolis and it’s cold as shit outside. Two weeks into the off-season and he just sits there, staring at the 70 inch plasma, munching on dry Captain Crunch in his Superman pj’s.”

Business advisors have been kept waiting and scheduled appearances have been put on hold. O’Neal’s complete indifference to the off-season even extends to his closest friends; he doesn’t return phone calls or respond to text messages. His wife, Shaunie O'Neal, is fed up.

“You know what it’s like having a 340 pound man around the house who’s entire day is spent in a leather recliner watching TV? I come down for breakfast, there is he, watching one of the morning shows. Five hours later I come back from the gym or from the mall or lunch out with the girls, and who’s big ass is still there, exactly where I left it? Would it kill him to take the kids out for lunch or on a play date…would it kill him to take out the trash or fix the shower head in the master bathroom? If I wanted to spend the off-season with a big lumbering, do-nothing stiff I would have married some seven foot three white guy from Latvia.”

Perry Rogers, O’Neal’s agent, defended his client’s propensity for coasting. “People who don’t walk in Shaq’s very large shoes have no idea of what it takes to make it through an off-season. It’s a grind. And let’s face it: with three years remaining on his contract, he doesn’t have many off-seasons left. So c’mon people, cut the guy some slack.”

Several Heats players were surprised to learn that Shaq was blowing off the off-season after blowing off the pre-season and regular season and making a token go of it in the post-season. “Damn,” said one player that asked not to be identified. “I’m shocked. After game two if you asked me to name one player who couldn’t wait for the off-season to start soon enough, it was Shaq.”

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