Shaquille O’Neal will always be known as a Hall of Famer with a league MVP and four rings in his trophy case. But the former Los Angeles Lakers center is almost as good a prankster as he was a basketball player.
It didn’t take long for O’Neal to become the owner of team pranks and rookie hazing. In the latter’s case, the young players feared the severe retaliation they would receive if they did not accept the hazing. In the case of a Lakers rookie, he learned on the spot to always do what Shaq says.
Shaquille O’Neal often confuses his rookie teammates
There are a lot of great stories about Shaq’s kindness, generosity, and mentorship to his teammates. But at the same time, you will find plenty of examples showing his love of pranks, some of them going beyond the limits.
Going back to his days with the Orlando Magic, O’Neal strength rookie Brooks Thompson crawling on all fours during a whole team flight. With the Phoenix Suns, the big man foggy Goran Dragic by forcing him to carry a broken keyboard when the team went to play away. He also has made Danny Green sang and danced on command when the two were teammates with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
However, Shaq’s hazing hasn’t always been light and playful. A special case arose in the 1999-00 season when O’Neal urged rookie Devean George to stay late after practice for a chat.
“One by one, the veterans of the Lakers surrounded George,” wrote Jeff Pearlman in Three Ring Circus: Kobe, Shaq, Phil and the Roaring Twenties of the Laker Dynasty. “[They] ripped off his clothes, taped his hands and mouth, forced him to the ground and taped his whole body to court. Then they got on the bus and left.
Another extreme example of O’Neal’s hazing came early in Big Diesel’s career with the Purple and Gold.
Shaq taught Lakers rookie Shea Seals a lesson in following orders
During the 1997-98 season, O’Neal was more dominant than ever. It was almost hard to believe that Shea Seals was on the same team.
Seals was an undrafted rookie from Tulsa. His NBA career spanned one season, where the shooting guard played in four games and scored a total of four points. One day, Seals refused Shaq’s request to bring him a Gatorade. From there, it only took the rookie a few hours to reconsider his decision.
A few hours later, Seals got out of the shower. Back in his locker, he was surprised to see that his costume was missing. “Rudy,” he said to [Lakers equipment manager Rudy] Garciduenas, “Where have my clothes gone?”
He shrugged his shoulders.
The seals made a solitary hunt across the room. “Finally,” he said. “Rudy pulls my suit out from the bottom of a dirty locker with a bunch of shoes on. It was dirty and wrinkled, and it smelled really bad.
When O’Neal spotted the seals he said, “Do as I say” and walked away.
Jeff Pearlman, Circus with three rings
It would be the last time Seals tried to try his luck against the future Hall of Famer.
“I learned not to play with Shaq,” Seals told Pearlman. “I wasn’t going to win that one.”
Shaquille O’Neal was a deal on the basketball court
O’Neal’s pranks in the locker room, hotel, and team plane have endeared and dreaded the 7-foot-1 star. But on the basketball court, he has proven himself as a leader and winner.
Shaq helped carry the Magic to the 1995 NBA Finals, six years after the franchise made its NBA debut. He would go on to form his legacy with the Lakers, winning three rings and three Finals MVPs. Then with a young Dwyane Wade, O’Neal added a fourth and final ring with the Miami Heat in 2006.
In total, O’Neal ended his career with 15 All-Star Game appearances, eight First Team All-NBA selections, two scoring titles and too many thunderous dunks to count. Not to mention, too many rookie pranks to count too.
All statistics are courtesy of Basketball Reference.
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