“I Was Robbing The People” – Shaquille O’Neal Told The Celtics To Keep $1.5 Million Because He “Wasn’t HIM Anymore”


Shaquille O’Neal is chopping it up on Inside the NBA on TNT with Charles Barkley these days, and it’s arguably the most entertaining non-game sports program on television. Shaq doesn’t need to lay out all the mistakes he’s made in his life, all the very human problems he deals with, or get all vulnerable with the general public, who he’s given so much to over the years. Nevertheless, he persists and continues to open up in surprising, strikingly candid ways about things like living in a 100,000 square foot house by himself.

In an upcoming interview with JJ Redick on The Old Man and the Three podcast, Shaq describes what Redick termed the “grieving period” at the end of any professional athlete’s career. Despite all the accolades and personal accomplishments Shaq achieved on the hardwood, the longtime Los Angeles Lakers big man, four-time NBA champion and 15-time All-Star couldn’t take any solace in resting on his laurels.

In fact, in his final season, then as a member of the Celtics, he was struggling to come to terms with just how much he declined. Asked what the hardest part about that experience was, Shaq answered as follows:

“Not being him. Him is 28/10. F****n’ averaged nine points in Boston. I felt like I was robbing the people.

I felt so bad that when they called me back and said, ‘Hey man, we owe you $1.5 [million].’  I said  f*****g keep it. Keep it. I’m not coming up there to average six points…

I was dominant for so long, I never even thought about, ‘Hey one day, it’s going to be gone.’ […] It first hit me when I didn’t make the All Star team. I had that like ‘oh I don’t want to play,’ but I’m like bro, I dominated the All Star game for 12-13 years in a row. Now I don’t even get no f*****g votes. So that part kind of kind of messed me up.”

Shaq also couldn’t lean on all the aforementioned achievements as a source for comfort, because in his words, he’s “programmed to do more.” He was always on to the next thing, never reflecting on what he did in the past. Constantly moving forward. That can be a useful mentality to have, but at a certain point, getting that extreme can cause an inevitable crash, which is essentially what Shaq is describing here.

The full interview with Redick should be a fascinating one. It’d be cool to get more of Shaq’s takes on the intricacies of the game. For somebody who could just play bully ball and physically dominate everyone because he was so much stronger and taller than his opponents, Shaq has proven to be one of the most thoughtful and versatile human beings among mega famous professional athletes of his generation. Really, of any generation.

It’s impressive to me how introspective and willing to mine deeply personal stuff Shaq can be at one moment, and then all of a sudden, you see him on TNT’s NHL set mixing it up with Biz.

No matter his skating skills, I’m very certain Shaq is among the top five athletes to ever grace the Earth who I’d most want to avoid throwing hands with in a hockey fight.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock