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The Appeal of O'Neal
Rick Reilly
June 05, 2000
Nobody ever sends Goliath a thank you note, so....
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June 05, 2000

The Appeal Of O'neal

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Thanks for smiling. You fall on your keister skateboarding and laugh. You ride your motor scooter around, looking like an elephant on a roller skate, and laugh. You cruise the Hollywood Hills on your custom Titan motorcycle and laugh. Kareem used to schedule one smile a year whether he thought he needed to or not.

Thanks for being the kind of superhero we think we'd be. During a day off in Phoenix you showed up at the house of the Suns' team photographer because you knew it was his 10-year-old son's birthday. You had ice cream and cake, played video games and then went to the boy's hockey game. You even gave his team a pregame speech. Uh, fellas, I don't know much about hockey, but the fourth quarter is OURS!

Thanks for having the self-control of a Chuck E. Cheese manager. What opponents do to you three nights a week would fill a season on ER. Nobody gets more welts, lumps and contusions than you do—and they're league-sanctioned! There's even a term for abusing you, Hack-a- Shaq, as though it were something in the playbook, like double-down or box-and-one. If I were you, a half-dozen Portland Trail Blazers would've left on gurneys by now.

Thank your dad for us, too—Sarge, your stepfather, Phil Harrison. Yeah, he was tough on you—making you copy pages out of the dictionary, making you crouch against the wall, knees bent, thighs parallel to the floor, holding an encyclopedia in outstretched arms—but he gave you something every kid needs: somebody you didn't want to disappoint. "I could never act a punk," you say. "He'd let me have it." But when you called him to tell him you'd won the MVP award, he wept. It's true: Good men raise good men.

You quoted Aristotle the other day when you said, "You are what you repeatedly do." Well, win or lose, in front of millions of kids every day, you repeatedly do the right thing, which makes you the right guy.

So, just thought somebody ought to say thanks.

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