The hype surrounding the Shaquille O'Neal-Kobe Bryant rivalry may have never died down, but that doesn't mean Shaq's paying attention. In fact, he's only concerned with other big men of this generation.
When Kobe won his fifth title in June, he declared, "I got one more than Shaq. So you can take that to the bank."
O'Neal's reaction wasn't what you'd expect.
"My first thought [after hearing that] was, 'Well, I guess I'm still
relevant,'" O'Neal told Jackie MacMullan. "Kobe is still thinking about me, I guess. I'm
still someone to be measured against.
"But I don't compete with little guards. I don't compete with little
guys who run around dominating the ball, throwing up 30 shots a night
— like D-Wade, Kobe. Now if Tim Duncan
said it, I'd be pissed. He's the only guy I'm competing with. If Tim
Duncan gets five rings, then that gives some writer the chance to say
'Duncan is the best,' and I can't have that," he clarified.
Despite his frequent antics — which he says will continue — O'Neal is looking to take a mature approach to his tenure in Boston. After considering a townhouse in the Back Bay, Shaq opted to live in Sudbury to avoid distractions.
"I'm out in the woods, in the middle of nowhere," he said. "I've got my
whole season set. I chose to live way out there so I can get up, go to
practice, come home, take a nap, then get up and go to the Thoreau Club
[in Concord] and do some more work."
He's also excited to be surrounded by players with similar mindsets.
"For once in my career, I won't have to hold anybody's hand and they
won't have to hold mine," he proclaimed. "I'm surrounded by veterans. We had a
great battle [last Thursday] at HealthPoint. It was something I never
had before — three, four, really great players all in one pickup game," he recalled.
He also went on to praise his teammates specifically. "Don't worry. I know everything I need to know about Ray," he said of Ray Allen.
He had enthusiastic words for Kevin Garnett too.
"Kevin looks really good," he said. "He had a season [last
year] sort of like mine. He's a big-time player who got an injury, and
no one would give him the benefit of the doubt. He's got this bum knee
and everyone wants to write him off."
O'Neal, though, is looking for a similar revitalization.
"Me too. I hurt my thumb, have surgery and all of a sudden, it's 'Shaq is done.'
"Well, I'm not done."
NESN.com will showcase one Moment of Shaq every day until the
Celtics open the season against the Heat on Oct. 26 at the TD Garden.
Sunday, Sept. 26: Shaq plays in Blue Chips.