Shaquille O’Neal’s Impressions About the 2002 NBA Finals

Shaquille O’Neal

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The Lakers won their third straight NBA Championship in 2002 after sweeping the Nets in four games and Shaquille O’Neal was extremely dominant, averaging 36.3 points, 12.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.75 blocks in 41.5 minutes.

Shaq talked to Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson on Scoop B Radio about playing the Nets in the 2002 NBA Finals: “It was boring. I actually got mad when we were playing in Jersey. You think Todd McCollough is going to stop me at the crib in Jersey in front of my grandma and grandpa?… No. Stop it.” 

O’Neal revealed what Phil Jackson asked to work with him in harmony and take him to the top of the NBA. The first three championships of Jackson with the Lakers were in a three-peat with Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant leading the way. O’Neal arrived to Los Angeles in 1996 and in 1999 he was still after his first NBA Championship. The Lakers signed Jackson as their head coach hoping to change that and he had some recommendations for Shaq.

Shaquille O’Neal averaged 23.7 points, 10.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.3 blocks in 34.7 minutes over 1,207 career games in 19 years with the Magic, Lakers, Heat, Suns, Cavaliers and Celtics.

In an interview at Rich Eishen’s show, Shaq revealed details about his relationship with Phil Jackson, what it was like to meet him and Jackson’s requests for him:

“He brought a resume. If he says, ‘Do this,’ we all know that he knows what he’s talking about. Because every summer when we’d lose, we’d watch him in the Finals. … When I first met him, he said, ‘Look, if you listen to me, you’ll be MVP. You listen to me, you will win a championship.’ And I said, ‘Cool.’ 

First thing he said, ‘No more albums, limit your commercials and do everything I say.’ And I agreed, and it was probably the best years that I played. Once we had that formula of how to win, we were just thirsty for more.”

Jeff Pearlman’s book Three-Ring Circus: Kobe, Shaq, Phil, and the Crazy Years of the Lakers Dynasty, broke down more details of their first interactions.

“Frustrated by one lost season after another, O’Neal spent the summer lifting weights, watching what he ate, ingesting creatine and other supplements. 

“I was huge,” he said. “Solid bulk.” 

“How much you weigh?” Jackson asked. 

“I don’t know,” O’Neal replied.

 “I want you to lose about 15 pounds,” Jackson said. “The bigger you are, the harder it’s gonna be on your knees, and I want you playing 40 minutes a game.” 

“Okay,” O’Neal replied.”

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