Shaq's Top 10 NBA Finals quotes
DALLAS -- Four days off before Game 1. Two days off between Game 1 and Game 2.
Shaquille O'Neal isn't the only one who wants to see more of the basketball.
Luckily we have Shaq's levity to help us laugh a little during these drawn-out downtimes. It surfaced again Saturday afternoon when Shaq, one of the few participants in these NBA Finals who didn't look jittery in that long-ago series opener, uncorked some vintage material to explain why it's OK for him to weigh more than 320 pounds.
"Because I'm a freak of nature," Shaq said. "You've never seen anyone this big -- this sexy -- move this way.
"I wasn't born. I was found on a train," Shaquille O'Neal told the media on Saturday.
"My numbers [on the scale], sometimes it's going to be a higher number and you earthlings -- when you hear a high number -- because of your level of thinking you're automatically going to think it's fat. I've been 11, 12 percent body fat [for] my whole career. But when you've got a big, sexy, beautiful man that's up in the 340s, 350s, the way you guys were taught on this planet, you're going to automatically think it's fat."
O'Neal has always been a quipster, of course, but especially so on the Finals stage, where he genuinely seems to enjoy climbing onto an interview deck and meeting the worldwide media every day. "Quotacious" is how he referred to himself during the 2001 NBA Finals, his third of six career visits to the game's grandest stage.
How many more are in store for the 34-year-old?
I don't detect any concern from him that this could be a last hurrah. Then again, Shaq's looseness with so much on the line suggests that he's not worried about much, even with Miami facing the possibility of a 2-0 deficit and even after two days of dour debate about Shaq's limited offensive impact in Game 1.
In that carefree spirit, here is one man's top-10 list of Shaq's most memorable Finals ramblings:
1. The setting: After Game 2 of the 2002 Finals against New Jersey
The situation: Shaq is so thoroughly dominant -- rumbling for 40 points, 12 boards and eight assists against the Nets' overmatched front line -- that he even made 12 of 14 free throws, leading to a 23-point rout in the Lakers' eventual sweep. The unexpected success at the line prompts Shaq to uncork a string of barbs at then-Sacramento coach Rick Adelman, who had complained during the Western Conference finals about O'Neal stepping over the line.
The Shaq Smack: "That game was dedicated to Rick Adelman. I'm at home, in the bathroom, trying to take a dump, flipping through the channels and he's complaining (on TV) about how I'm stepping over the line. I can't even do a No. 2 in peace. I'm sitting there grunting at 12:30 at night. Can I go one day without somebody saying something negative about me?"
2. The setting: Before Game 4 of the 2001 Finals against Philadelphia
The situation: Even though L.A. holds a 2-1 series lead, Shaq is openly frustrated with what he deems to be "flopping" from Sixers center Dikembe Mutombo.
The Shaq Smack: "Challenge me. Treat me like a game of checkers and play me. That's all I'm asking, just play me. Treat me like Sega and play me."
3. The setting: Before Game 5 of the 2004 Finals against Detroit
The situation: With the Lakers down, 3-1, to the Pistons and on the brink of an elimination that would ultimately dissolve the Shaq-Kobe Bryant-Phil Jackson triangle, O'Neal is asked if "Kobe's confidence in himself sometimes become a detriment to himself and to the team."
The Shaq Smack: "That's sort of a trick question and I don't have a trick answer. Next question, please. You're not going to get me with that question today, buddy ... I'm a veteran at this, buddy. Can't get that with me, buddy. Not today."
4. The setting: After Game 3 of the 2000 Finals against Indiana
The situation: O'Neal misses 10 free throws in a nine-point Lakers loss and is asked why he can't "conquer" his free-throw demons.
The Shaq Smack: "I think everything happens for a reason. With my game being the way it is, if I did shoot 80 percent, I'd be a harder person to deal with. It just keeps me humble. Just imagine me in my game shooting the same percentage that Reggie Miller shoots. I wouldn't even talk to you guys because I wouldn't have to."
5. The setting: Before Game 4 of the 2001 Finals against Philadelphia
The situation: With the Lakers closing in on back-to-back titles, O'Neal is asked how much he had matured since his Orlando Magic got swept by Houston in the 1995 Finals.
The Shaq Smack: "I failed, I think, seven [or] eight times before I finally got my first [championship]. It was just, you know, just about me growing up. Now that I'm an old, old veteran -- age 29 -- I do things a lot differently. I don't go to the gentlemen's clubs anymore. I had to slow that down."
6. The setting: After Game 2 of the 2004 Finals against Detroit
The situation: The Lakers had just recorded what would be their only win of the series, and Shaq -- asked to rate rookie Luke Walton's passing skills after Walton recorded eight assists -- takes a thinly veiled shot at Kobe in the process.
The Shaq Smack: "It amazes me how [Walton] can give me the ball and guys that have been playing with me four, five, six years can't give me the ball."
7. The setting: Before Game 5 of the 2001 Finals against Philadelphia
The situation: The Lakers need only one more victory to complete a record 15-1 march through the playoffs.
The Shaq Smack: "It's just one more win. I don't give a [bleep] how we do it, as long as we get it done. Did I say [bleep]? I'm sorry."
8. The setting: Before Game 4 of the 2000 Finals against Indiana
The situation: Glen Rice's wife, Christina, criticizes Lakers coach Phil Jackson for limiting her husband's playing time and O'Neal is asked whether the Rice story is becoming a distraction.
The Shaq Smack: "Yeah, I had some rice with my chicken last night. I wanted some gravy, but gravy was fattening and I'm trying to lose weight."
9. The setting: After Game 4 of the 2000 Finals against Indiana
The situation: Shaq fouls out, but Kobe carries L.A. to an unforgettable overtime victory that goes down as Bryant's first truly Jordanesque moment. Having dubbed himself The Big Aristotle just weeks earlier after winning his first and only MVP award, O'Neal is asked to give Bryant a new nickname.
The Shaq Smack: "The Big Little Brother."
10. The setting: Earlier this week, before Game 1 of the 2006 Finals
The situation: Shaq's favorite interviewer of all-time might be Dallas radio personality Corby Davidson, who always barrages O'Neal with a series of inventive -- and often politically incorrect -- questions whenever Shaq hits town. On this occasion, Davidson asks: "Let's just say that a snake bit your mom right here, right on the chest area, would you be willing to suck the venom out to win the title?"
The Shaq Smack: "No, but I would with your wife."
Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here.
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