Folks in Orlando might think he is doing a little too much voicing of his opinion. "The general manager here actually played in the league," Shaq says of the Lakers' Jerry West (who is actually executive vice president of basketball operations), as opposed to Magic senior executive vice president Pat Williams. (Replies Williams: "I know I don't have Jerry West's jumper. But I have a hoop in the backyard now, and I'm working on it.")
More L.A.-versus-Orlando Shaqrimony: "These fans know the game," Shaq says, presumably dissing crowds at the Orena. He relishes being with a franchise in which he is part of great basketball history, not the entire history.
He seems to like the coach in L.A. better, too. At Magic's Sports Star Award dinner on Jan. 21, Shaq got up and said, "I'd like to thank Del Harris for calling my plays." Emphasis on the plural. In Orlando, Shaq's basic play was to set up on the right block and let the power forward cut through. Now he gets the ball on the right block, left block, free throw line, left wing, right wing, places with room to demonstrate his handsome ball-handling skills. Remember, this is a guy who as a kid always wore Magic's jersey, not Kareem's.
The only problem is that all those bright lights in the Forum have revealed flaws in Shaq's game. After five years in the league, he still seems to have only four shots: the two-handed earth-shaking dunk, the one-handed Inglewood-shaking dunk, the sky-throw and the fadeaway air ball.
"I love Shaq," Magic says, "but he needs another shot. Kareem had more moves. Shaq needs the drop-step move Kareem had."
"Ever thought of having Kareem in to show you a few tricks?" I ask Shaq.
"Ahh, bro," he says. "I've got all that. I just ain't showing it yet. And remember: I'm the only one who sent Michael Jordan home."
May 18, 1995, Eastern Conference semifinals, Orlando over the Chicago Bulls, four games to two.
Typical rich jock. Takes another babe to the airport. Gives her a big kiss goodbye. Tells her he'll think of her all the time. Promises to call her four times a day.