Photos: Boss Hog at the AmRep 25th Anniversary Show
by Jon Behm · Published · Updated
— Photos By Jon Behm
Shaq’s 7-year itch
Chicago Sun-Times February 22, 1999 | Lacy J. Banks INGLEWOOD, Calif. – It took former Bulls star Michael Jordan seven seasons to win his first NBA championship.
This is Shaquille O’Neal’s seventh NBA season.
Has Shaq’s time arrived? “I don’t really have a timetable to win the title, but this year could be the year,” the Lakers’ center said. “I believe that we have the players on this team, as it is, to win a title. If Kobe (Bryant) and I play the way we are capable, and everybody accepts his role, plays on the same page and plays smart, we don’t need to add anybody else.” Lakers coach Del Harris senses that O’Neal is more focused on winning a championship. “He’s 26 now, and it’s about his turn, I think he feels,” Harris said. “That in itself is a big thing. The other: We had 61 wins (last season). We were one game short of the best record in the league. Shaq missed better than a quarter of the season last year, and we still won 61. If he would stay healthy the entire year this year, which we are praying for, then it’s logical to assume (we could do better).” O’Neal has yet to play an entire 82-game schedule. In each of the last three seasons, he missed at least 22 games. He already has missed one game this season because of a recurring stomach muscle strain. As the Lakers’ leading scorer and rebounder, O’Neal remains the rock upon which Los Angeles is building its title hopes. O’Neal reflected on that goal last week in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times: Q: What does this team have to do to win a title this year? A: We have to all get more involved on both ends of the court, and that starts with me. I’m going to have to do more kicking the ball back out to my teammates rather than going out and scoring 30 to 40 points a night. I don’t mind (passing more) because I can score when I want to score. Q: Why do you think that this team – revolving around you and Kobe Bryant – can win it all? A: Throughout the history of the game, every great team had a one-two punch and everybody else was just there. In Detroit, it was Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer. But there was also (Dennis) Rodman grabbing the rebounds, and when Joe Dumars would launch a three-pointer from the corner, that sucker was good. With the Lakers, Magic Johnson and Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar) got all the credit. But then they also had James Worthy wheeling and dealing down low, Byron Scott and Michael Cooper killing teams from the perimeter and even Kurt Rambis with them ugly goggles coming in off the bench with A.C. Green to help kick butt. With the Rockets, they really had mainly Hakeem (Olajuwon) and everybody else just rotated around him and did their role. Then there were the Bulls. They were really built around Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. But then they had a bunch of role players to complement them. When Steve Kerr played with me in Orlando, that son-of-a-gun couldn’t hit a shot. When he got with Michael and Scottie, he couldn’t miss. So here we are with me and Kobe. We got a dominant big man, and we got a dominant scoring guard. We also got some guys who can hit the open shot. But everybody’s got to be on the same page and bring heart to every game. If they don’t, I’m going to be (mad) again if we go through this season without getting a ring.” Q: If Dennis Rodman joined this team, how would it affect your game? A: When I first came into the NBA, I said to myself that I wanted to be a different big man. So a lot of times when I can’t get the rebound, I try to be the first player up the court on the transition leading the fast break. I know that if I make it up the floor first, get a pass and score on a dunk, I’m going to bring the fans to their feet nine out of 10 times. Yeah, I’m going to do one of those tomahawk dunks. And then I’m going to holler and look at the camera and have some fun. So with (Rodman) doing the rebounds, I’d be freer to help out on the break and I’m going to beat most big men down the court. I don’t care who it is. I’d also be able to concentrate on challenging shooters and blocking shots because he’d be with me to mop up the boards. Q: Would you also welcome how Rodman would take some of the media pressure off you as he did for Jordan and Pippen? A: Well, I’m used to the media stuff because I’ve been talking with them since I was 15. It’s part of the game, part of my job and responsibility. We only need a guy like him to come here and do two things: play defense against certain players like Karl Malone and get some rebounds. Q: Would you party with him? A: I don’t party much anymore. I’ve been there and done that. But I’m a daddy now, and I’m also working on having some more kids. Plus, there are certain times to party. In a back-to-back situation, I don’t even try. And when I do party, I really only do what you call `ride by’ a spot. I mean, I’ll just go in and rap a little and leave. I don’t drink and all that stuff. I know better now how to budget and balance my time and energy. Q: Your free-throw shooting is getting better. What have you done? A: I stopped listening to all the critics and just went back to a basic formula of taking three deep breaths and taking the shot. Rick Barry wanted me to shoot underhand. I’ll shoot negative 900 percent before I shoot underhand. Q: You’ve also added a soft hook that you are shooting well. A: There is a lot more of my game that fans have yet to see. When I was in high school, I was watching guys like Hakeem Olajuwon, Kareem, David Robinson and Patrick Ewing and learning a lot from them. But I don’t get a chance to show all I can do because I get double-teamed so much. One of these days, I’m going to get a chance to play another big man one-on-one and I’m going to murder him. Q: Is leading the league in scoring one of your goals this season? A: No, because I already did that one year, and they gave me a little stinking cup or trophy. It was dirty and had the wrong date on it and everything. So all that work for nothing? Naw. What I want to concentrate on now is having a complete, all-around game and a better touch. I want my jump hook to become more automatic. So when I retire from this game, I want to have two banners hanging in the Forum. One for my retired jersey and the other for a team championship. this web site 7 year itch go to website 7 year itch
Lacy J. Banks