Remember that season and a half Shaquille O’Neal played for the Phoenix Suns? Talk about a clash of styles: O’Neal — the Shaqtus — planting himself in the paint while Steve Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire, Grant Hill and Shawn Marion pushed for fast breaks every trip down the floor.
Phoenix was the fifth-fastest team in the NBA in 2007-08 season. O’Neal, at age 35, was still a force in the post, but couldn’t keep up.
So it probably didn’t help when Gordan Giricek, a fifth-year swingman from Croatia, started “talking trash” to Shaq, according to Hill. So O’Neal choked him out before a big game.
Hill explained on a Thursday appearance on CBS Sports HQ:
“Giricek was a good player from Croatia, a good shooter, but he never passed the ball inside. He would always kind of look Shaq off and shoot it. And they would go back and forth and exchange words, and Giricek would kind of talk trash to Shaq. And so one day Shaq was like, ‘You know what, I’ll let this guy know who I am.’ It was right before a big game in Phoenix against Dallas. We have our team meeting. The meeting ends, I go use the restroom, I come out. Giricek’s laid out on the floor. And I’m like, ‘Come on Shaq! We’re trying to win!’ But it was typical Shaq. Thankfully, Giricek, nothing serious happened. Thankfully he’s living to be able to talk about it. But Shaq was always entertaining and always knocking people out, I suppose.”
Judging by the way the Big Diesel asked the question, it seems like O’Neal is proud of the sleeper hold he laid on Giricek, who retired from the NBA and returned to Europe in 2011.
The next season, without Giricek on the team, O’Neal averaged 17.8 points and 8.4 rebounds per game and was voted to his final All-Star Game.
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