Poor, Poor Pitiful Shaq

By Mike Wise
Thursday, May 12, 2005

The big man came home to his $20 million spread on Miami's exclusive Star Island, haven of choice for potentates, poseurs, Gloria Estefan and, of late, the universe's most dominant basketball player. Shaquille O'Neal, his bruised right thigh throbbing in pain, lumbered through his front door on Tuesday night after a foul-plagued, very un-Shaq-like evening.

"He gives me a little kiss and then says, 'I don't deserve to kiss a beautiful woman,' " said his better half, Shaunie O'Neal. "I'm like, 'Please. Stop it, Shaquille.'

"Then he says in this little mumble, 'I'm crushed, I'm worthless, I'm no good.'

"I've gotten to the point where I just laugh. I mean, we're talking about the world's biggest drama king."

Meet America's most guilt-ridden, 7-foot-1, 325-pound man -- Shaq, an insecure supermodel trapped in an NBA supernova's body.

Most injured players would take 16 points and seven rebounds in 37 excruciating minutes. Not Shaq, who once scored 40 points and grabbed 20 rebounds in an NBA Finals game, who is used to being a lot bigger and better than his peers.

"He's harder on himself than anybody," Shaunie said yesterday by phone. "Anything anybody writes in the paper, he's told himself things 10 times worse."

O'Neal has not spoken to the media since the Miami Heat began its Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Wizards. Was he angry about Steve Nash nudging him out in the MVP voting by writers? No, that's old news. Did he duck out because he was not the focal point of the Heat's first two victories in the series? Nah. O'Neal would spend as much time bestowing praise on Dwyane Wade and Eddie Jones as he would his own game.

He is mum because the most indomitable center in pro basketball cannot do the things he wants to on the court, his wife says. Shaquille O'Neal is not used to numbers befitting regular earthlings, especially this time of year. He is used to being an uberhuman in April, May and June, able to carry entire franchises to NBA titles. When O'Neal does not feel he is pulling his weight, it eats at the big man.

What's Shaq going to expound upon? How much more he wishes he could give a team headed for the conference finals? O'Neal knows, down deep, that the Detroit Pistons are most likely on the horizon -- the same team that beat down his Lakers in five games to astonishingly win the NBA championship last June. In coaching parlance, he wants to be right and ready to face Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace and Rip Hamilton again. And the more his right thigh pains him, the less the ultrasound and the heat rub do to heal the injury, O'Neal knows the possibility of being relatively healthy against Detroit is fading. What uberhuman wants to talk about that?

The Heat is probably going to win the series against the Wizards in six games or less.

All Kwame Brown jokes aside, it makes no sense to bring the suspended center back to the Wizards in order to help contain O'Neal. It not only sends a lousy, different-standard message by an organization hell-bent on maintaining newfound credibility with its fans and players, it also does not attack the problem in this series for Washington: Wade.

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