Mark Madsen listed his Top 10 Shaquille O'Neal moments on his blog MarkMadsen.com and gave the Deseret News permission to run his list here. The two played together as part of the L.A. Lakers' run of championships during the Karl Malone and John Stockton era for the Utah Jazz.
The entire team was stuck in Florida with nothing to do on Thanksgiving, so Shaq invited all the players, coaches, trainers, etc. over to his home and hosted an amazing Thanksgiving.
The food was awesome and, after the meal, he gave us a tour of his house.
When he showed us his room, he showed us a nice flat panel TV and then said, “I used to have all the latest electronics, remotes, and everything in this room. Now instead of the electronics, I’ve got diapers for my little ones.”
He was beaming, has always loved his family, and frequently brought his wife and kids to the Staples Center. He continued on the tour and showed us a new addition he was putting on his house. Samaki Walker asked, “How many square feet are you adding?” Shaq answered with “10,000 square feet.” Samaki was amazed and said, “Are you serious?” Shaq’s reply was, “Hey man, you only live once.”
Before one of my last regular-season games as a Laker on the road in Memphis, I was sitting in the locker room trying to get ready for the game mentally. All of a sudden, I look up and before I know it, Shaq wants to wrestle. Next thing I knew, we were in a full out wrestling match. Imagine trying to push around a 335-pound, 7-foot man who wasn’t even trying very hard to pin you.
All I know is that after a minute or two, I had given it my all and I was exhausted. Shaq let up but everyone in the locker room was loose and relaxed after the moment of fun. I’m not sure how I had the energy left to play the game, but I ended up playing one of my better games and had 10 points, which almost never happened. After the game, Shaq said, “Nice game, Mark. Now I see that I need to wrestle you every game.”
Sitting in the locker room before a game in Milwaukee, Shaq said something like “Anybody here know what the Pythagorean Theroem is?” At that point, Brian Shaw was saying something like “What are you talking about Shaq?” (They were great friends from their Orlando days and they always messed with each other).
Then Shaq went on to compare himself to the Pythagorean Thereom and said, “The Pythagorean Theorem is complicated, tough to figure out, and I’m the same way. By the time the other team starts to figure me out (each game), I’ve got 29 (points), 13 (rebounds) and 5 (assists) and it’s too late.”
There was a cute flight attendant on one of the Lakers' charter flights, and I happened to be sitting next to Shaq. He looked right at her and said to her, “Are you a Mormon?” He knew I was Mormon and single and, next thing you know, he’s asking a flight attendant if she happened to be Mormon and if she was, that she should meet me.
All this happened with me sitting right there. She happened to be of another religious faith, but trust me -- I will never forget that! Then, a few weeks later, a single member of the Lakers' front office came up to me at the Staples Center and said, “The most interesting thing happened last night. I’m sitting in a restaurant in Redondo Beach and Shaq was in there asking some of the girls if they were Mormon because if they were, he wanted to set them up with you.”
The last three times I’ve seen Shaq, the first question he asks me is, “Are you married or engaged yet?” I’ve told him I’m “still working on it,” and he then always says, you'd better let me know when it happens because we’re coming to the wedding.
Shaq was rarely late to practice and Phil Jackson gave us one free “late pass” due to the unpredictable L.A. traffic. So one day Shaq came in about 10 minutes late and Phil asked, “Shaq, why are you late?” Shaq said, “I was coming down the highway and a big rig flipped full of chickens … There were eggs, feathers and chickens everywhere. Sorry about that Phil.”
Two weeks later, Shaq showed up late again and Phil asked, “What happened Shaq?” Shaq said, “I was on time and everything; then this huge truck filled with chickens flipped. There were eggs and feathers everywhere.” The whole team was dying laughing. Phil issued the fine, but I think even he loved it despite the fact that he had to fine Shaq.
Before our final game in New Jersey for our third world championship, Shaq got everybody together and said something like, “We need to get this win tonight … we’ve got to do it for Mitch (Richmond).” Mitch was in the last year of his career and had played a big role, leadership-wise, and had some nice games for the team.
But he had not yet won a championship ring. Shaq just always respected the people who had gone before and all of the work that Mitch had put in and his stature and respect as an NBA veteran from before Shaq came into the league.
He always talked in private about the respect he had for Wilt (Chamberlain), (Bill) Russell, George Mikan, etc. He gave so much respect to others who deserved it, and he received the same respect back.
In L.A., Shaq was involved with law enforcement and used to tell us about enforcement operations he went on. Some of his stories were incredible. I was never quite sure where the intersection of fact and fiction was for one of those operations he told us about in L.A. But here is one (probably of many examples) where Shaq stepped up in helping someone else. In this case, he intervened with someone involved in bullying and assault of a gay couple.
In his parting news conference someone asked Shaq what advice he had for players today. He answered by saying, “Be leaders and not followers.” This is something that Shaquille O’Neal has done his entire career.
On that trip when he did take me car shopping (and offered to take care of the down payment), he also bought every single player on the training camp roster a new rolex as a token of gratitude for the recent championship and his newly minted contract extension. He also stopped off at the Beverly Hills "Big and Tall" store and spent $4,000 on a new L.A.-type wardrobe for me. On that same shopping trip, a man on the side of the road in Beverly Hills had a sign that read, “Honk if you’re against racism.” Shaq honked.
The fun factor: The Big Fella conducted a symphonic orchestra!! Afterwards, he was quoted with a new respect for directors, saying that his arms were “shot” after the rehearsal. But he brought fun and laughter everywhere he went.
One time after a Portland Trail Blazers game, Shaq was frustrated with me because he had wanted me to “go at” Rasheed Wallace more. I thought I had played Rasheed as tough as possible. But Shaq gave me an earful in the showers that night after the game. That was tough for me. The guy who took me under his wing for so long was upset with me, and I was doing my best.
Shaq continued to push me for a few days and then came back and built me up. Before a Denver game at home, he said, “Every time you touch the ball tonight, I want you to shoot it.” He just wanted me to be aggressive.
During a time in L.A. when the Lakers were gong through adversity, a few of us were getting ready to go home. He talked about possibly retiring and his frustrations. The NBA had changed the defensive rules at the peak of Shaq’s dominance, and some speculated that the rules were changed partly to respond to Shaq’s dominance.
He was frustrated about this. He was probably frustrated with other teams' Hack-a-Shaq strategy. He was probably mad that he got fouled so much and the opposition had to hit him hard so that Shaq would not get both the made basket and a subsequent free throw. But despite all of the hacking and refs sometimes missing calls (Shaq was so strong he played through a ton of fouls), he just kept on going.
The No. 1 memory on my list is how Shaquille O’Neal gave the league, players, teammates and fans 19 years of great memories.