Shaquille O'Neal still admires Jerry West and Phil Jackson
The initial excerpts suggest otherwise, but don't think Shaquille O'Neal's book solely casts blame toward everyone but himself.
O'Neal reopened old wounds detailing his clashes with Kobe Bryant. He criticized the Lakers' decision to pass over Brian Shaw as the head coach. O'Neal wrongfully pinpointed Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak behind trading him to Miami. But Shaq's 281-page book titled "Shaq Uncut: My Story," co-written by Jackie MacMullan, slated for a Nov. 15 release, highly praises both former Coach Phil Jackson and former General Manager Jerry West.
Jackson and West differ on what mainly constitutes a championship team, with Jackson touting his triangle offense and Zen-like principles and West arguing talent supersedes everything. They may not have a good relationship, as West indicated in his autobiography when he told of Jackson's kicking him out of the locker room. Shaq conceded as much when he alluded to their relationship problems as a "power thing." Nonetheless, Shaq loved both West and Jackson because they showed him respect while holding him accountable, but in different ways.
Jackson did it with teasing.
When Shaq visited his Montana home, Jackson suggested Shaq should wear a life vest while he was swimming in his lake. He constantly harped on O'Neal's poor free-throw shooting. Jackson often called O'Neal "fat boy" in practice. In their first meeting, Jackson told Shaq "there was absolutely no reason why he shouldn't be the MVP of the league" so long as he improves his work ethic and minimizes his movie and rap ventures.
"Phil had fun taking his digs at me," O'Neal wrote. "I didn't mind, because I knew he cared about me and he did it to motivate me."
West did so with intimidation.
After signing O'Neal to a seven-year, $120-million deal in 1996, West immediately shared his expectation toward O'Neal that he and an unnamed 18-year-old (that sounds familiar) would help the Lakers win "a lot of championships." O'Neal trashed a Fabulous Forum bathroom after the Utah Jazz beat the Lakers in the 1997 Western Conference semifinals, prompting West to grab his neck and remind him about his nine NBA Finals losses. When O'Neal drew a one-game suspension in the 1997-98 season for slapping Utah Jazz center Greg Ostertag between practice sessions, West angrily warned O'Neal he would trade him if it happened again.
"Even though I loved Jerry West, the only times we really had any meaningful conversations was when he was giving me a hard time," O'Neal wrote. "He'd chew me out, tell me a story, then tell me to beat it. I loved that. Once in a while he'd say, 'Good game,' or 'do this and do that,' but I never hung out with him."
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Photo: Former Lakers Center Shaquille O'Neal and Coach Phil Jackson prepare for the start of Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals against the< San Antonio Spurs in 2002, when the two would lead them to their third consecutive NBA title and Jackson's third three-peat. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / May 7, 2002