The time Shaq took Mark Madsen car shopping (and paid the down)

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Stories about Shaquille O’Neal from his playing days — and even now — describe a guy who could swing between childlike joy and ruthlessness, who loved a prank and had a huge heart. He lived in the moment and make sure his NBA path was fun, not a slog.

He was, in other words, the perfect teammate in a lot of ways.

The amazing Jeff Pearlman — one of the best storytellers we have in sports and a brilliant author — has just released his new book “Three-Ring Circus: Kobe, Shaq, Phil and the Crazy Years of the Lakers Dynasty.” He wrote about it for Basketball News and had this great story from former Shaq teammate Mark Madsen.

“He took me car shopping,” Madsen recalled. “He literally said to me, ‘I’m putting the down payment on whatever car you want.’ I told him I wouldn’t let him, but he negotiated a great deal for me on a Chevy Tahoe.” The next stop was clothing shopping at a big-and-tall store in Beverly Hills, where O’Neal unloaded $2,500 on jeans and Italian sweaters.

Pearlman also gets into how Shaq kept an eye out for Mormon women for Madsen to date.

Then there was this story from former Laker Mike Penberthy.

When Penberthy arrived for his 2001 Laker debut wearing a suit jacket from Banana Republic, O’Neal pulled him aside. “You don’t have any suits, do you?” he said quietly, so as not to embarrass the rookie. “No,” Penberthy said.

The following morning, the center from LSU picked up the guard from Master’s College and brought him to his personal tailor. He paid for six suits.

“When my father died, Shaq offered to pay for the funeral,” Penberthy said. “He’s that type of guy.”

Shaq is a generous person with his time and his money. He still is a big kid enjoying life, which is part of his popularity — everyone wants to be like Shaq, in some way.

If you like these kinds of stories, you’re going to love Pearlman’s book.