An enormous statue of Shaquille O’Neal is being officially unveiled at Staples Center on Friday, so lots of stories are being shared about the Hall of Fame big man. One of the strangest is that time (err, the times – plural) O’Neal showed up to a Lakers practice completely naked.
Former Lakers coach Phil Jackson mentioned it at an event that For The Win‘s Charles Curtis was at over the summer. Jackson said:
“Well, you know, numbers of times, he could crack a team up with humorous effects on the floor. There were times when he shocked us all in a practice situation, especially when he showed up nude with just his shoes on.”
Yes, he said multiple times.
Now, more details about the naked practices have been revealed in a feature story by the The Orange County Register‘s Mark Medina. We now know how horrifying it was and why it happened. Per Medina’s great feature:
“I’m just scarred by the one where he ran out into the middle of the court naked before practice,” said former Lakers forward Rick Fox, who played with O’Neal from 1997 to 2004. “I can’t get that image out of my mind.”
Neither can other teammates, who recalled O’Neal often reporting to practice wearing his birthday suit instead of a Lakers uniform for one simple reason.
“We had a rule you can’t be late to the center huddle,” said Lakers coach Luke Walton, who played with O’Neal as a rookie in 2003-04. “He got here where he didn’t have time to get his clothes on. So he made sure he was on time in the center circle.”
Another former Laker who talked to Medina is Derek Fisher, who said that O’Neal would then try to hug people while he was naked at practice. Fisher said he became really good at running away, even saying, “That’s why when I hit that shot in San Antonio in 2004, that’s why we were so good at sprinting off of the court.”
So Fisher ran off the court in San Antonio so fast after hitting his famous 0.4-second buzzer-beater because of his practice running away from a naked O’Neal?
I’m not sure how to respond to that, but I guess now we all have learned these details that we never knew we wanted – or maybe never wanted.
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