Shaquille O'Neal wishes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was a better mentor
It turns out Andrew Bynum has already accomplished something that Shaquille O'Neal never will.
The current Lakers center received personal instruction from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, while the former Lakers center wishes he could have benefited from such teaching. Although he notes in his book that LSU Coach Dale Brown once brought Abdul-Jabbar onto campus to teach O'Neal the sky hook, the Big Fella believes Cap didn't offer much support as a pro.
"Kareem was never around," O'Neal wrote in "Shaq Uncut: My Story," co-written by Jackie MacMullan. "And, whenever I did see him, he usually ignored me. The disappointing thing to me was, being in LA all those years and trying to fill those shoes, I would have liked to have a conversation with him."
This episode has everything to do with both Abdul-Jabbar's introverted and often downright unfriendly personality as well as Shaq's own insecurities. After all, Abdul-Jabbar sounded more than willing to help Bynum as a Lakers special assistant coach when he was approached about it. It also reveals the mixed reception O'Neal received among former and current centers.
Some were positive. According to O'Neal, former Lakers center George Mikan once asked him for his autograph, while former Celtics center Bill Russell immediately welcomed him with open arms and even helped him mend fences with Kobe Bryant. Some were negative. While he spent part of the book marveling at the respect he had for Hakeem Olajuwon and Tim Duncan, O'Neal shared that Wilt Chamberlain and Patrick Ewing never talked to him much. In turn, Shaq often took digs at up-and-coming elite centers such as Yao Ming and Dwight Howard.
O'Neal said he tried planting the seed in earning elite centers' respect support by filming a Reebok commercial with Abdul-Jabbar, Chamberlain, Russell and Bill Walton and ensuring that they received "a nice paycheck." That only spurred a friendship between O'Neal and Russell. Chamberlain and Abdul-Jabbar maintained their silence toward O'Neal, while Shaq later had a war of words with Walton for publicly criticizing Shaq's work ethic in Miami while Walton was an ESPN analyst.
As for Abdul-Jabbar, Shaq contends that former Lakers General Manager Jerry West instructed him to emulate Cap's game preparation while also recognizing that O'Neal's jovial personality could have a more positive effect on the team than Abdul-Jabbar's unfriendliness. O'Neal says he felt that firsthand.
"He'd say hello, but I was looking for, "Hey, do this" or "Watch out for that,'" O'Neal said. "He knew everyone was comparing me to him. He knew better than anyone what I was up against, but he gave me nothing."
— Mark Medina
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