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He'll no doubt tell viewers about his career highlights, which include earning a championship ring with the Pistons in 1990, but the lowlights will make for better stories, such as the time in Cleveland when he went to the bathroom at halftime and emerged to find that the entire team had gone out for the second half and accidentally locked him in the locker room. "The worst thing," he says, "was that when I finally got out there halfway through the third quarter and apologized to the coaches, they hadn't even realized I was gone."
The NBA has installed storm windows for the upcoming hurricane season. Having seen the powerful force of nature that tends to blow in from Orlando from time to time, destroying rims, backboards and goal supports in its path, the league has taken some unique precautions against any recurrences of Hurricane Shaq.
Last Feb. 7 a particularly emphatic dunk by the Magic's 7'1" 301-pound O'Neal forced a hydraulic goal standard to crumple. Then on April 23, he also ripped down a backboard, which in turn broke a 24-second clock. "Whether it was Shaquille or someone else, with the size of these guys it was just a matter of time," NBA vice-president Rod Thorn says.
Shaq's acts prompted league officials to hire a structural-design firm to test the bolts and screws of each basket in every NBA arena during the off-season to make sure they could withstand the force of his most violent attacks.
Thorn seems satisfied that O'Neal won't cause another major delay (it took the Suns 37 minutes to replace the crumpled support during a nationally televised game), but we're not so sure. Maybe our reluctance has something to do with the new tattoo—a big Superman S—O'Neal is sporting on his left biceps.
At this rate the Rockets will soon be known as the cradle of coaches. Three former Rocket players—Robert Reid, Tree Rollins and Larry Smith—have joined the ranks of NBA assistant coaches for the '93-94 season. Reid is with the Bullets, Rollins with the Magic and Smith with the Rockets. The players are part of a sudden influx of recently retired players into the league's coveted coaching ranks.
When Reid ran into Rollins and Smith at the annual league meetings in Palm Desert, Calif., last September, they all looked at one another and laughed out loud. "We congratulated each other; and then we said, 'Can you believe we're here?' " Reid says.