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Charles Hirshberg
April 16, 2001
The author is decisive, witty and positively brilliant. Just ask him
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April 16, 2001

Books

The author is decisive, witty and positively brilliant. Just ask him

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Shaq Talks Back
by Shaquille O'Neal/ St. Martin's Press, $23.95

"Me and Nietzsche got something in common," writes Shaquille O'Neal, and he is not wrong. Friedrich Nietzsche, the 19th-century German philosopher, penned an autobiographical paean, the first chapter of which is titled, "Why I Am So Wise." Shaq's new memoir is such a festival of egomania, the same title would do nicely.

Of course, narcissism is not what Shaq is thinking of when he claims fraternity with the author of Also Sprach Zarathustra. He means that " Nietzsche was a guy who was so intelligent that they thought he was weird," he writes. Apparently some people think that Shaq's a little weird, so you can draw your own conclusions. To prove how smart he is, Shaq offers long lists of ideas that he says he thought up all by himself. By his account, it was his idea for the Orlando Magic to trade for Penny Hard-away in 1993 and to hire Chuck Daly as coach, which Orlando later did in 1997 after Shaq had gone to the Lakers; Shaq even claims credit for enlisting a Chihuahua as spokesdog for Taco Bell.

When you're as smart as Shaq, or Nietzsche, you often find yourself burdened with men of inferior intellect, such as former Magic coach Brian Hill ("didn't respect him," Shaq writes) and former Los Angeles Lakers coach Del Harris ("couldn't take him"). He holds nothing back in the chapter that addresses his often tense relationship with Kobe Bryant ("What was there to be jealous of? I already had my soda deal"), though in the end, he praises Bryant for his play in the NBA finals.

One of the book's few tender moments comes when Shaq's pit bull, Die Hard, is bitten in half by an alligator. Shaq has the dog's remains cremated and then lovingly places the urn with the ashes on a shelf. In addition to his dead dog, Shaq loves his mama, his stepfather and his agent ( Leonard Armato). However, he's still angry at Pat Riley for having played him "only" 25 minutes in the 1992 All-Star Game, and he wants Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to know that were the Hall of Famer playing today, Shaq would "bust his ass."

None of this will surprise anyone familiar with the monster egos of the NBA, but here's something that might surprise you: Shaq claims that SI swimsuit model Tyra Banks "ain't my type." He prefers...Tori Spelling! "I tried to hit on Tori," he writes, "but she wasn't havin' any of it."

Maybe she doesn't like guys who remind her of Nietzsche.

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