A Master at Shooting From the Lip

Times Staff Writer

Shaquille O’Neal can be serene, snippy, profound and profane. But he is rarely dull.

The Laker center usually has something to say even when he doesn’t want to talk. And during the roller-coaster ride that has been the Laker season, heading into the NBA Finals for the fourth time in five years, his remarks -- from his verbal sparring with Kobe Bryant to the love shown Karl Malone as the future Hall of Famer pursues his first championship ring -- have made him, as usual, too big to ignore.

Never was that more evident than during the Western Conference semifinals against San Antonio.

After Derek Fisher sank the miracle basket with four-tenths of a second left to beat the Spurs, O’Neal -- who barely missed blocking Tim Duncan’s desperation shot that gave San Antonio what it thought was the winning basket -- was asked for his reaction as the Lakers were leaving the court.


“One lucky shot deserves another,” he said. A quip that launched a T-shirt emblazoned with that quote.

Following are some of the best Shaqisms from the 2003-04 season.

After Bryant suggested O’Neal worry about his own game (Oct. 26):

“He’s right, he doesn’t need advice on how to play his position, but he needs advice on how to play team ball. As we start this new season, [stuff’s] got to be done right. If you don’t like it, then you can opt out next year. If it’s going to be my team, I’ll voice my opinion. If he don’t like it, he can opt out.... I ain’t going nowhere.”

To Malone during the season opener against Dallas, after Malone said he wasn’t used to hearing cheers from Los Angeles fans (Oct. 28):

“You’re with us now. Get out of the twilight zone.”

Speaking about Bryant several days after a cooling-off from their public sniping during training camp (Oct. 31):

“He’s the yin, and I’m the yang. And opposites attract. He’s different, but as long we’re on the court it’s a must we play team ball and do what’s best for the team. Off the court he does his thing, off the court I do my thing. But we’re going to continue to get it done on the basketball court.”

After hearing Alonzo Mourning needed a kidney transplant (Nov. 29):

“I wanted to put distance between myself and every center. I think I’ve done that on a basketball level. But on a real-life level, I never understood why [Mourning] came back after something so life-threatening. The game doesn’t become so important. But some guys stress winning so much that that’s all they know. He’s one of those guys that always wanted to win. But he has a beautiful wife, beautiful kids, he should enjoy that.... When it’s all said and done, nothing’s more important than that.”


After the Lakers’ 90-86 win over San Antonio, in which he had 15 points, 16 rebounds and nine blocks (Dec. 3):

“As long as we’re winning, I can’t tolerate having bums on my butt and not getting the ball. However, if we’re winning, I guess I’ll have to tolerate it. This year it’s not about me getting 27.”

Teasing reporters in New York before a Knick game, after being told he was the NBA player of the week (Dec. 9):

“So what, you guys want a comment from me? Whoop-dee freakin’ do. That’s my comment.”

Again joking with reporters, after being fined for missing practice without calling the team. He said he couldn’t remember the Laker practice facility phone number (Jan. 1):

“We, as humans, only use 8% of our craniums. Why fill it up with nonessential things?”

Talking about a rash of injuries hitting the Lakers (Jan. 27):

“Some things you just can’t question. Like, you can’t question why two plus two is four. So don’t question it, don’t try to look it up. I don’t know who made it, all I know is it was put in my head that two plus two is four. So certain things happen. Why does it rain? Why am I sexy? I don’t know.”

After being suspended by the NBA for using obscenity during a live TV interview (Feb. 4)

“I said what I felt, and people try to control people. But you can never control me. I’m a 31-year-old juvenile delinquent. Nobody can control me.”


Describing Laker rookie Luke Walton (Feb. 9):

“We haven’t had a guy like him in a long time. He reminds me of a Jud Buechler that can play.”

After dunking to finish a fastbreak, then hugging a fan during a game against Miami (Feb. 10):

“I was kind of hoping it was Anna Kournikova.”

Speaking before the NBA All-Star game (he went on to win the most valuable player award in the West’s 136-132 victory) (Feb. 15):

“Hopefully. I’ll play a couple of minutes, and if I’m feeling good, I may do a couple of things to let the crowd know I’m there. I’m not gonna try and do too much. But if I hit a couple of shots and the game’s going good ... I may try to grab that MVP award.”

Expressing his appreciation for Coach Phil Jackson (Feb. 17):

“When it comes to Phil being here or not being here, even though we struggled last year and you guys think we’re struggling this year, I’m not turning my back on Phil. He’s the guy who took me to the next level, and he’s the guy who’s going to continue to take me to the next level, and nobody else can do that for me. I don’t [care] if we lose 115 games in a row. Phil’s my guy. Period.... If he’s gone, I’m gone.”

Talking about Laker General Manager Mitch Kupchak and his contract extension negotiations (Feb. 25):


“He’s the general manager. He’s supposed to be the general that manages. That’s what the term ‘general manager’ means.... Just write what I said. If I was the GM, there wouldn’t be no problems. None whatsoever.”

Describing an alley-oop dunk in a win over New Jersey (Feb. 29)

“Throw it up there. I’ll get it. Left hand. Right hand. Feet. Lips.”

After Game 1 of the Laker-Rocket first-round playoff series (April 17):

“I wouldn’t say I was tired. I would say I was beat up. I’m the only guy in the history of the game that has to play against three, four guys every night. If I don’t get fatigued, they should check me for smoking crack.”

After Bryant’s 42-point effort against San Antonio in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals (May 11):

“Once again I have to title him as the best player ever.”

Talking about the contract extension he seeks after this season (May 22):”If I keep playing, my name will be inscripted in the NBA bible for many years to come. That’s what it’s all about. That’s so kids 20 or 30 years down the line from now go ‘Man, O’Neal had 90,000 points. He played until he was 60. And he was still asking for the maximum at 60.’ ”

After missing eight of 14 free throws in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals against Minnesota (May 23):

“Just blame it on the rain.”

After an embrace in the locker room with Malone, who thanked O’Neal for helping him reach the NBA Finals after the Lakers defeated Minnesota in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals (May 31):


“I’m just glad because of what happened this year. I feel like I’m a man of my word. I told him last summer I was going to get him to this point. That we were going to get him to this point. I feel good for him.”