Shaq Responds to Social Media Trend Criticizing '90s Basketball Defense, Compares Himself to Giannis

We sat down with legend Shaquille O'Neal to talk '90s defense, the rise of women’s basketball, the Magic retiring Dwight Howard's jersey and the “How to March Madness” campaign.

Man in a plaid suit attending a sports event
Stacy Revere / Getty Images
Man in a plaid suit attending a sports event

Death, taxes, and Shaquile O’Neal being on a commercial while you’re watching TV. Even as the most dominant big man of all time, Shaq has arguably outperformed his sucess as a basketball player since his transition to business full time in his post career endeavors.

Shaq has participated in plenty of public campaigns, but there are some projects that are more personal than others. This March, Home Depot is helping Shaq build on his own property in Georgia.

“I just built a guest house in the back of my house," Shaq says. "I just bought the next door neighbor's house, so I got 10 more acres."

A lot of Shaq’s values come from his upbringing in a military family. He is loyal to everything. Business, values, and his history. The wisdom Shaq was given from a young age from his father is still a force in his life today.

“I used jealousy as motivation," Shaq says. "I’m looking at Jeff Bezos. These are the people that I look at. So when I see their success, I get mad. I get upset. But then I transfer that into 'how can I do that? How can I be this successful?'"

We sat down with Shaq to talk about social media criticizing '90s defense, the rise of women’s basketball, and the “How to March Madness” campaign, which launches on Selection Sunday and is brought to life by Home Depot associates and Shaq to include a series called “Tips from the Tool Shaq” featuring entertaining content tying together basketball themes with common spring DIY projects.

(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)

Mr. Shaq, I know we’ve got a little partnership with Home Depot. We already know you’re a businessman, but are you also a handyman? 
Yes. I want to say I'm excited to help Home Depot bring a sponsorship with NCAA March Madness to life. I've been a Home Depot guy for a long time. My store that I visit is store #157 in McDonough. This is my first time not living like a spoiled brat, I just bought a 30-acre farm with two houses. The houses were kinda old.

Shaquille O'Neal in a Home Depot apron assisting a customer with carpet rolls

So, you know, there's only one person to call: Home Depot. A lot of stuff I kind of did myself. But this campaign is always going to be about fun. You know Home Depot phrases and basketball phrases, kind of go side by side. For example, cleaning the glass, you know, stuff like that. So this series I'm doing, Home Depot is going to be called Tips from the Tool Shaq. And what I like about this commercial is that real people that work at Home Depot were in the spot with me. So it’s very cute. You know, sports fans and Home Depot fans are definitely I love it. 

What projects do you have in the works on the new land right now?
I just built a guest house in the back of my house and I just bought the next door neighbor's house, so I got 10 more acres. He was an older gentleman and his house is very old, so partner up with Home Depot to fix it up and it's going to be beautiful. 

I'm going to pivot you to basketball real quick. This is relevant to you as an LSU guy, but some many people will say women's college basketball might have more star power right now than men's basketball...
Oh it does. Go ahead and say it, it does. It’s fabulous. Recently it hit me. I sat down to watch all the women's games. First time in the history of my history. Caitlin (Clark) was playing, my Angel (Reese) was playing, Juju (Watkins) was playing and that young lady from Stanford (Cameron Brink). I had so much fun with those games and I've never done it before. So kudos to the women.

.@SHAQ lead Angel Reese out onto the floor for LSU's Senior Day 💜

(via @HValentineLSU)

— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) March 4, 2024
Twitter: @NBAonTNT

This is inspirational, especially for little girls. People try to make it a competition between a man and a woman thing. No. As a fan, it's just more entertainment. The other night before I sat at the house and I watched the UFC, then woke up the next day and watched women's basketball, then after that I watched NBA basketball. For people like me and you who work very hard, our outlet is our outlet. Everybody loves sports, they love music, some people like going out to the club. Sports on a day off is what we like.

I'm happy for the women, it’s beautiful. I went to LSU to walk Angel out on senior day, I've never seen a women's arena like that. I's a proud moment for women's sports and I'm happy for them. But again, it is not a competition. We're all in the family of entertaining people. So the more entertainment we can bring to the world, the more peace we'll have in the world. Imagine a world with no sports and no music?

In the social media world, there's been a lot of talk recently about '90s basketball defense...
It's normal talk. I've never been one to be a hypocrite. I did the same thing when I came to the '90s talking about the '80s and the '70s because people always used to say, “oh, you can't do nothing with Wilt, Bill Walton, and Kareem." And I used to look at the footage and be like, "are you kidding me? I would have killed all these old bastards." So, they're just doing to us what we did to them.

Orlando Magic player in mid dunk over a Chicago Bulls defender during a basketball game

So this dialogue will exist forever then?
Yes. In 2040, when they have a 10-point line and you got guys shooting from the tip line we will compare. It’s normal. Again, it's entertainment. It's just something to talk about. Things that will never happen will give you a trillion subtitles. It's just a conversation that will never end but it will never happen. You see what I'm saying? I actually love and hate those conversations because they never end.

What decade do you feel like you were built for?
I could have played in every decade. If you look at Giannis, I was Giannis. I used to get in trouble for trying to bring the ball up. “Give it to the guard, give it to the guard, give it to the guard.” Now you got 7-foot tall guys taking it up. So I definitely could have played in this era, to get the ball every play? Easy.

Call an iso for a deep three?
Yes, so easy.

I saw a Tweet the other day saying that the Magic need to retire Dwight Howard's jersey. You guys have a little history.
My parents always told me this, especially my father, if there has to be discussion about it, then you should ask yourself should it really be done? Like for example, when you talk about top 75. If there has to be discussion about me, don't put me in.

Two basketball players conversing on the court with cheerleaders in the background and the game clock at 0:00

You see what I'm saying? When you're going through your list, top 50 players, Jordan? Oh yeah. Bird? Oh yeah. Magic?  Oh yeah.  Shaq? Uh… Do not put me in, I don't want to be mentioned, don't put me in. 

He played there nine years. He's done a lot of things, but it's not my decision on who goes in? But I see Penny going in before him. And then I see T-Mac (Tracy McGrady), and then I see him.

We don’t have history. I'm an elder. I always try to give certain advice and I can only give advice through tough motivation. Like for example, if I say you don't write good articles and you don't respond and just keep writing, I know you're a monster. Like I know this kid, he's a tough kid. If I say you write a bad article and then you come back like “well, I had a higher GPA than you” blah blah then I know I can’t even speak to you. So I've always he's great player but whenever I say something, he would get real sensitive, which means to me that I don't think he has it. 

Basketball aside, I feel like it’s fair to say you’re one of the most fluent businessmen, who’s played professional sports. Who do you look up to from a business standpoint?
When I was a youngster, not having a lot, I used to see a lot and I used to get really upset. My father was a military drill sergeant. He was one of the wisest people I know. And he had phrases that I still live by to this day. He said, “let that jealousy motivate you." And I used to be like, huh? He's like, “I see you looking at the guy in his shoes. Let that jealousy motivate you, not motivate you to do nothing crazy but what you gonna do to get a brand new pair of shoes.”

So to answer your question, Magic Johnson. Damn. He's doing so much. I'm looking one day at an article that comes out on the top five athletes making money off the court. I knew my name was on the list, I got 100 commercials out. Jordan, Magic, and then there was a guy by the name of Dave Bing. He played for the Pistons. But I wasn’t in the top five. Instead of getting mad, I realized I had more work to do. So I use jealousy as inspiration.

Three men at a sports event; two seated shaking hands with a standing man; all dressed in suits with stage backdrop

So right now I'm looking at the Koch family, I'm looking at Jeff Bezos. I'm looking at, you know, the guy who was my partner with Ring, who sold Ring to Amazon and got a billion dollars. These are the people that I look at. So when I see their success, I get mad. I get upset. But then I transfer that into how can I do that? How can I be this successful?

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