Shaq snagged about 80 Game 3 tickets for relatives I who live in and around Newark, his birthplace. With a mansion in Beverly Hills and a 40,000-square-foot palace in Isleworth, Fla., near Orlando, Shaq still claims, "I'm a Jersey guy all the way." Having said that, he's already I decided that he will retire in Florida.
Shaq is pondering marriage to Shaunie Nelson, his girlfriend of several years, but don't start shopping for wedding gifts. "I want to do it when I can focus on nothing but my marriage," he says. "Right now I'm trying to focus on my NBA career and my police career." Shaq and Shaunie live with a brood. Taahirah, 5, is Shaq's daughter from a previous relationship; and Myles, 4, is Shaunie's son from a previous relationship; and Shareef, 2, and Amirah Sanaa, seven months, are the progeny of Shaq and Shaunie. "Amirah won't go to sleep until she hears my voice," says Shaq, who on many nights dozes off with her lying on his chest.
Shaq has drawn inspiration from Sacramento Kings coach Rick Adelman, who has continued to complain that Shaq was allowed to step over the line prematurely on his free throws during the hotly contested Western Conference final. Before Game 3, O'Neal sent a rhymed message to Adelman: "Don't cry/Dry your eyes/Here comes Shaq/With those four little guys." Then O'Neal went out and made 12 of 14 foul shots in a 106-83 victory, after which he described the exact moment when he heard Adelman's latest gripes, on a late-night sports broadcast. "I'm in the bathroom...sitting there, flipping through the channels, and he's complaining," O'Neal said. In Game 2, O'Neal even vogued after successful free throws, leaving an extended right arm in the air for several seconds to accentuate the purity of his stroke. "Another message to Adelman," he said.
After a heated Game 7 victory in Sacramento O'Neal delivered a different message to Kings fans who were hooting at the Lakers' bus as it pulled away from Arco Arena: He lowered his pants and showed them his rear end.
Shaq's questionable thespian talents (Kazaam, Blue Chips, Steel) notwithstanding, he says he would consider a return to the big screen, "if I can get me an action role where I can be jumping out windows with some Matrix-type effects." His career as a rap artist, however, appears to be over. "I did six albums: one platinum, two gold, three wood."
Shaq began riding motorcycles six years ago. Although he is reluctant to ride in L.A.—"It's too hilly and curvy, and the people are crazy," he says—he will tool along level Ventura Boulevard. "You let the wind hit your face," he says. "You feel free, you get away from everything and you get to think."
Before the Finals, Shaq says, he removed the diamond studs that are in both of his nipples "for no particular reason."
Shaq heard Louis Farrakhan speak at a Nation of Islam meeting several months ago. During the Sacramento series he greeted Kings forward Hedo Turkoglu with an embrace "because you greet a Muslim man with honor." And he plans to take a pilgrimage to Mecca one day with his stepfather, Phil Harrison, a Muslim. Still, Shaq says he has no plans to convert to Islam. "My mother [Lucille Harrison] is a Baptist, so I understand both religions," says O'Neal. "Right now I'd just call myself a man who believes in God."
Shaq, usually accompanied by Jerome Crawford, his bodyguard and close friend, likes to take pistol practice at a range in Van, Nuys. Out of 300 shots from between 25 and 50 yards he says he routinely scores 265 to 270 bull's-eyes.
KING OF PAIN
For all his playfulness, Shaq isn't always the easiest guy to be around—the Los Angeles Times disclosed last month that the Big Moody is one of his teammates' out-of-earshot nicknames. But all the Lakers praise his fortitude in playing with an arthritic big right toe and a left little toe that was operated on last year. Shaq puts the pain in his right toe at eight on a scale of 10. "Your toe is supposed to bend when you walk," says Shaq, "but mine doesn't at all. I walk flat-footed, I run flat-footed. The worst time is the morning after games, when I wake up and can't even move it. I lie there and think, I gotta play basketball on this? But I suck it up. Some people who think I'm not hurting should walk a mile in my shoes."