Tuesday, January 3, 2012



The Big Autobiography.

By Tim David Harvey


'Shaq Uncut', this writer has to admit. It took a long time for him to get round to this book, but not a long time to read and that wasn't because of the 'Large Print' edition I was accidentally ordered for Christmas. Then again a larger than life character like Shaquille O'Neal could only do it B.I.G. like this. The only reason it took me so long to get round to this tell-all autobiography penned only months after his retirement announcement was because I was still finding it hard to accept that the most entertaining figure in basketball who got an 11 year old English kid from a small seaside town in the U.K. into this great sport of Basketball was done.

The same kid, now 26 who purposely shaped his American holiday last April around trying to catch a glimpse of the big fella in action before he retired while in Boston, Chicago and Miami, even if it was for the Celtics and even if it was in the twilight of his career. I still had dreams of Jeanie, that the Buss family would bring Shaq back to L.A. for an All-Star redeeming, reunion with Kobe for one more go at Larry O'Brien. Still literally the biggest star of the NBA called it a one of a kind career.


It seems whether on or off the court, Shaq was always going at full-speed and never running on fumes. Whether it be his jam and rim dropping power plays, or his generous charity work, or extra-curricula entertaining activities. It's little wonder he crafted the follow up to his funny first autobiography ('Shaq Talks Back') so quickly, of course with the help of another Hall Of Famer in the form of Jackie MacMullan, the co-writer of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird's New York Times Bestselling 'When The Game Was Ours' dual autobiography. Jackie really brings everything together with her descriptive, nostalgic chapter openings and stories.


Coming out around the same time as Jerry West's highly anticipated book 'West By West, My Charmed, Tormented Life', this is another great gift that many Laker fans would have loved to have found under their trees this Christmas gone. Another purple and gold Laker legend colours his career over his scribes. Of course with Shaq, your bound to get more than a few smiles and belly laughs. Just check out what he bench pressed during one Celtic team talk last year in one of the last chapters. Still Shaquille knows how to move us with his words. The 'Little Warrior' details his upbringing and troubles that he didn't over-indulge in complaining about during his career. There is also a fitting and moving tribute to his late, great friend the legendary, rapper The Notorious B.I.G.


The NBA's biggie shows focus throughout these pages as he talks about his approach to the game and how the league works. Telling stories of how he developed his Magic passing skills in Germany when he couldn't dunk and the sealed with the blow of a kiss moment the light hit him that is was time to enrol in LSU University Shaq's nostalgia paints a picture of him we've never seen before. He also gives us a deep, through inside-knowledge analysis of his teammates, peers and the players that rule the league now and how far they can and should go. Shaq may be an NBA analyst on T.V. now but if that gig ever falls by the wayside (yeah right) he could seriously make it as a sportswriter.


Still it was on court where Shaq made his bread and butter, as he spread his talents into platinum, decent rap albums and some big Hollywood pictures. Shaq truly was the man and from his Orlando rookie days, to being the biggest Laker since Magic it really is interesting and inspiring to read about one of the biggest influences on the modern-day game. Any Laker fan looking to take a trip down memory lane, are drawn right into the greatest moments of the Lakers three-peat. With insight to how it all went down...and then how things fell down soon after, these are the words from the horse mouth that the media have been galloping after for years.


Still Laker fans needn't stop reading or put the book in the fridge like Joey from 'Friends' once Shaq takes his talents away from Chick Hearn and the Lakers and to South Beach. What follows is some hot pages about O'Neal's time with the Heat and his relationship with former coach Pat Riley. Like the great coach, this take is slick but thoughtful, concentrated but at times humorous...and in the end it all seems in good nature. After all the two men that where known to keep guaranteeing championships at parade probably have more in common than they think. As Shaq takes his talents from South beach to LeBron and Cleveland via Phoenix we are in for even more terrific tales from the tall man.


Shaquille O'Neal also gives it up to the legends before him. Speaking candidly about the giant greats that came before him and paved the way. Although his relationship with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton doesn't seem the best, he gives uppermost praise and respect to the 'Lord Of The Rings' forefather Bill Russell. He also respects Wilt Chamberlain's privacy with a testifying, tribute to the late, great, big Basketball God. From Penny, to Wade and LeBron Shaq also shares his insight and time with his sidekick guard greats with all due respect and consideration...and then of course there is the talk on Kobe. Which is humbly and honestly written with love, respect and consideration over the pages. The highs and the lows are reached here and it's all done without the usual B.S. that comes with other peoples biographies.


This is because Shaq really is the genuine article and over these chapters it's clear to read the reason this players career was so classic. It was more than just the power, problems and perfect game (minus the free-throws)...it was about the personality. In the character stakes even if Shaq was as tall as Muggsy Bogues he still would have towered above the rest. That contagious smile and enthusiasm keeps the pages of this book turning and although the man that has done so much details every distinct aspect it's often downplayed. Even though the character's ego is big, his humility is notorious too. The kid from Newark that always honors his parents and upbringing is still here.


Even 'The Big Fellas' last season as a Celtic are worthy of praise as you read more into it. From his contributions to his battles and his funny frolics around Harvard. The A* basketball student also shares with us his studied in the entertainment and social-networking industry and his graduation through the ranks of law enforcement. Often times it seems like O'Neal's career has been 'Shaq vs The World' but as you finish this book all those who are against him will even start to realise there is no one quite like Shaquille O'Neal on this earth. A legendary personality, player and generous, genuine man. Whether you know him as a Laker or a Cavalier, a platinum rapper or a genie from a boom box, a charitable force or a cop, after this real, revealing read, you'll know the everyone man simply known as...


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