by Shaquille O’Neal
(with contributions from Jackie MacMullan)
Grand Central Publishing, 2011
The National Basketball Association has been in existence for over 60 years. There have been a number of legends to pass through the game, and there are moments that fans of the sport can never forget. Thousands of players have come through the league and have left their imprint. Apparently, however, none of that matters. The NBA was created in 1992, when Shaquille O’Neal entered the league.
Shaq Uncut: My Story is the story of Shaquille O’Neal’s life, spanning from his childhood to his retirement in 2011. It tells the tales of his rough childhood in New Jersey, his constant moving around because of his father’s military involvement, and his exploits as a college and pro basketball star. It is supposed to allow the reader into the world of one of the greatest centers in basketball history; instead, it shows readers just how shallow and self-serving Shaq is.
Shaq has always been known as a ‘free spirit,’ and someone who enjoys joking around. His ‘bigger than life’ persona has been well-documented since he entered the league. Shaq Uncut, however, takes his self-love to a whole new level. It’s almost expected for pro athletes to have big egos. As premiere specimens, they are part of a small group of people who can do extraordinary things. O’Neal, however, wants us to believe that not only is he a physical anomaly, but he also is the one who curbs disputes, he’s the reason that most of the current stars of the NBA have their nicknames, and he thinks that being humble about things that shouldn’t involve fanfare means telling everyone how much money you’ve spent.
When it was announced that Shaq was working on his memoir with Jackie MacMullan, there was a palpable anxiousness that was immediately aroused. We would finally know the truth about the Shaq vs. Kobe feud; we would really know what Shaq felt about Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. It would let us know what Shaq feels his legacy should be, now that he has completed one of the most successful careers in pro sports history. While the book touches on the subjects above, Shaq Uncut is mostly filled with Shaq throwing people under the bus, not taking accountability for failures, while claiming a large share of the victories all for himself.
Repeatedly throughout the book, Shaq says that since he is going to be the one who gets blamed for the outcome, that things should be done his way. He makes it known that he should be catered to, and that if things don’t go his way, he will be sure to complain about it. He wants to try to get the reader on his side in every battle that he fought, never fully taking credit for his role in the disagreement. It’s as if you are aware of an argument between two mutual friends, yet you only hear one side, and the person on that side thinks he is always right.
In addition to that, Shaq makes it seem that he was the reason major events occurred during his career. He talks about how, when he was playing for the Orlando Magic, the team had the #3 pick in the 1993 NBA Draft. The team was focused on drafting Chris Webber, yet Shaq wanted them to draft Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, only because he had just done the movie Blue Chips with Hardaway. When O’Neal was with the Boston Celtics in the 2010-2011 season, backup point guard Nate Robinson made a name for himself for always videotaping pranks that he would pull on his teammates, then posting them on Twitter or YouTube. According to O’Neal, he was the one who told Robinson what kind of pranks to pull. O’Neal says he was the person who tried to integrate Kobe Bryant into the group when he was playing with the Los Angeles Lakers, only Bryant was the one who was opposed to it. To hear Shaq tell it, he was the greatest humanitarian to ever pick up a basketball.
Though there was a glut of self-stroking throughout the book, the one thing that got to me was the way that O’Neal brazenly boasted about how he has donated millions of dollars to his alma mater, LSU, and other things that he owns or has invested in. In one sentence, he talks about how he doesn’t like to put all of his business dealings into the stratosphere, but the next he is talking about how in 2000 he was one of the first people to invest in Google, or how he owns two clubs in Vegas, a chain of car washes, and a number of 24-hour gym franchises.
The prose in Shaq Uncut is disjointed, at best. It is written as if he telling a story to someone, remembers a story that relates minutely to the original, tells that story, THEN gets back to the original story as if there were no interruptions. His writing style is reflective of his speaking style: long-winded when not necessary, and brief where there should be explanation. The saving grace throughout the book was Jackie MacMullan and her anecdotes that opened each chapter. Though they were short, they were a respite from the continued blabbing and un-intriguing storytelling of a former professional athlete who overvalued his self-worth, and who doesn’t know how to share the spotlight with those who helped him achieve the accolades that defined his career.
Out of five stars, Shaq Uncut: My Story receives one and a half from me.
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