Oh, there are so many Shaquille O’Neal legends. So many stories.
This is one of those legends we joke about now, and frankly is not that funny in reality.
Grant Hill was on CBS Sports HQ’s “Reiter’s Block” with my man Bill Reiter when a call-in came from Shaq himself asking about the time he was wrestling pregame with Gordan Giricek and choked him out. (Hat tip to Colin Ward-Henninger for transcribing.)
“Shaquille O’Neal choked out Gordan Giricek before a game. He put him in a sleeper hold and the guy was knocked out, passed out on the locker room floor before the game. Definitely one of Shaq’s memorable — or not-so-memorable — moments from the year and a half that I played with him with the Phoenix Suns.”
What exactly started this?
“You know, Giricek was a good player from Croatia, a good shooter, but he never passed the ball inside. He would always kind of look Shaq off and shoot it. And they kind of would go back and forth and exchange words and Giricek would kind of talk trash to Shaq. And so one day Shaq was like, ‘You know what, I’mma let this guy know who I am.’
“It was right before a big game in Phoenix against Dallas. We have our team meeting. The meeting ends, I go and use the restroom. I come out and Giricek’s laid out on the floor. And I’m like, ‘Come on Shaq! We’re trying to win!’ But it was typical Shaq. Thankfully, Giricek, nothing serious happened. Thankfully he’s living to be able to talk about it. But Shaq was always entertaining and always knocking people out, I suppose.”
The post entry pass is a lost art for a lot of guards (in part because the change to allowing zone defenses makes post ups a less efficient offensive option for bigs, post ups are now more about guards/forwards posting up smaller guys on switches). Shaq would have been in the right to be frustrated.
But to choke a guy out in the locker room before a game? Come on Shaq. This isn’t the WWE. That’s messing with a guy’s livelihood. But it’s Shaq, so everybody laughs and moves on.