Q&A: Shaquille O’Neal on Sexy Miami, Pranks, and Killing Tim Duncan

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Carnival Cruise Line debuted a new cruise ship last spring and it made its first run through Miami last week. Our own Alexander Toledo (@TropicalBlanket) and Cait Anderson (@TheCaitAnderson) made it aboard the new Carnival Horizon for the homecoming event, with Miami Heat legends Alonzo Mourning, Shane Battier, Glen Rice, and Shaquille O’Neal, who hosted as Carnival’s official Chief Fun Officer.

We got the opportunity to catch up with Shaq about his time in Miami and his experiences with cruise ships, among other things. Shaq was in his element, with pints of sweat dripping off his face, just like old times.

Look, it gets a little weird. We’re also not sure how much of it is true.


Alex Toledo: We’re Miami Heat Beat with Five Reasons Sports. We cover the Miami Heat, and we’re new on the scene. So obviously, we’re gonna ask about your time with the Heat, which was a while ago. It’s been 12 years since that title. What could you tell us overall about your experience?

Shaquille O’Neal: I knew it was gonna happen. I knew we had all the pieces needed. I knew that the city was definitely gonna be behind us, cause one thing that I understood about Miami is that, it’s very sexy. You just needed somebody to bring the sexiness out.

So, when I first came here, the beach wasn’t as popping it was. Coconut Grove was really nice. So, when I came here, I said, “I’m gonna live on the beach,” and I convinced Pat Riley to let me do my thing. And doing my thing is: having a whole bunch of parties.

I’d call all my friends. “Hey, Puffy! Come down.” He came down and decided to stay. “Hey, Timbaland!” I called a lot of people up ‘cause in my mind, I wanted to make this like a mini L.A. So, you know, you give them a great product, great city, great vibe, now everything starts to click together. Started telling everybody to go to Prime 112, which is now one of the best restaurants in the world.

So, when I started doing that, I knew what I was gonna bring, and I knew what D-Wade was gonna bring. Nobody really knew that. So now, you got an exciting product [and] an exciting city. You got a win-win combination.

Toledo: I’m sure living on Star Island helped, I bet.

Shaq: Yeah, living on Star Island helped. The damn duck boat business picked up 90 percent ‘cause they’d drive by and be like, “This is where Shaq lives,” so everybody knew. But, very sexy city, and I knew that once you gave people a great product ‘cause I played in Orlando, and it was a similar vibe.

You give these hardworking people – they like to be sexy – something that they can relate to, something they wanna see, and they’ll go all out for you. So, I knew that we had all the pieces. And the first year, we weren’t in the Finals in the first year, but I remember having a leg injury and we lost in Game 7 versus the [Detroit] Pistons.

Toledo: After D-Wade was out?

Shaq: Yeah, after D-Wade was out. So, I knew that we needed a couple more pieces. That’s when we brought in Antoine [Walker], [Gary Payton] GP, [James] Posey, Alonzo [Mourning], [Jason Williams] J-Will, and that when they got over here, it’d be great. It was fun.

Toledo: Do you think you guys could have won the title in 2005 if it weren’t for all the injuries at the end?

Shaq: Yeah, definitely. Cause if we would’ve got past the Pistons, I would’ve killed Tim Duncan, personally.

Toledo: Ron Rothstein was on the Five Reasons Sports podcast and mentioned the story about the first time they introduced the “15 Strong” cards. They had you bring them in a wheelbarrow to the locker room?

Shaq: Yeah, brought in a wheelbarrow. So, one of the dangers of living in a city like Miami, it’s a lot of stuff that can get you out of character. So, Pat always said: “Look, you gotta be 15 Strong. These are gonna be our core principles, and this is what we want you to focus on.” And it worked. We had a lot of ups and downs, a lot of trials and tribulations, but we could always go back to the cards.

We went down 0-2, and he came in just screaming one of the lines on the cards. “Just win this next game,” and then it was 2-1. “Just win the next game,” and then it was 2-2. “Just win the next game,” and then it was 2-3.

Now, he put the cards down, he put them in the wheelbarrow and said: “We’re going to Dallas, and I’m checking everybody’s goddamn luggage, and if you got more than two suits, it means you ain’t ready, and you ain’t coming with the team.” So, we were at the airport, and he was really checking luggage. Guys had the two suits cause we knew we were gonna win that game.

Toledo: Do you think he secretly had suits that he wasn’t telling you guys about?

Shaq: No, no, not Pat Riley.

Toledo: Of course not. D-Wade is back, he’s spending one more year, or #OneLastDance as he says, in Miami. What do you think about him and where he stands, career-wise? How do you compare him when it comes to your other teammate who you won titles with, such as Kobe Bryant?

Shaq: I don’t compare much. When it comes to shooting guards, he’s probably top-two, top-three. People have their own comparisons. And it’ll be conversations that’ll always be subjective conversation. Some people say him, some people say [Michael] Jordan, some people say Kobe.

My thing is, as long as you’re in the conversation, you’ve done something. I’m just pissed off I didn’t get the farewell retirement tour. I’m happy for D-Wade, but don’t forget Udonis Haslem, ’cause without UD, there is no D-Wade.

Toledo: Of course, the OG!

Shaq: …Well, I’m the OG.

Source // Cait Anderson (Miami Heat Beat)

Cait Anderson:Shaq, you are known for so many things outside of basketball. Today you’re the Chief Fun Officer of Carnival Cruise Lines. What does being Chief Fun Officer mean to you?

Shaq: You have to ensure that everybody on the ship knows about the fun activities. Have fun with everybody on the ship, and let them know you’re not old. You could have fun. Your kids could have fun. I used to live right there (points to Star Island), and I admit, when it comes to this business, I was a hypocrite. ‘Cause if you’re over there, all you see is this big white thing, and you see a bunch of windows.

So, I was under the assumption that old people go on cruises, and they just sit in their little rooms and wait until they get to their destination, and they go, spend some money, get back on the ship and come back home. So, I had a meeting over here. It’s like a mall. I didn’t wanna leave. They got goodie shops, iPhone shops, they have libraries, all-you-can-eat buffets, basketball courts, and activities for the kids.

I said, “Let me be the one to let the people know,” ’cause a lot of people think when they think cruises, the first thing that comes to mind is old people, sitting on a boat, no fun. So let me show the world, that no, no, no, this ain’t that type of cruise. This cruise got everything you want on it, and trust me, I’ve seen it. I’ve combed the ship in and out.

That’s why I’ve already been on two or three cruises, nobody knows and I’m gonna be going on some more. This ship is so big I could come here, hang out, and nobody even knows I’m on the ship.

I’ve been on a seven-day cruise, and I’ve been on a three-day cruise, and nobody even saw me. I had on a costume. Nobody ever saw me.

Anderson: So, you’re incognito?

Shaq: I had on a wig, I had my friend push me in a wheelchair, and nobody even knew it was me.

Anderson: That is incredible. Well, we’ve seen a little bit of your personality throughout the day with all the events going on. You’re very much of a prankster, and I just wanted to ask you if you have had any memorable moments as a prankster in the NBA. What is your most memorable prank?

Shaq: Uh, I’m not allowed to tell you cause they’re not appropriate for ladies, but I’m probably the biggest prankster in the world. The statute of limitations are not up. My files will be released in 2027. All documents and blueprints of pranks will be released, but can’t do anything now.

‘Cause there’s like a federal prank injunction. I don’t wanna’, like, get prosecuted for being a federal prank snitch.

Anderson: Do you have any pranks planned for the people on Carnival Horizon?

Shaq: None, none at all. Just want the people to come here and have fun.

Anderson: Well, okay. You can’t tell us what your favorite prank was but can you tell us who your favorite teammate was to prank?

Shaq: Can’t tell you that either. All the prank documents will be released in 2027. Just go to Shaqpranks.com, #UnreleasedDocuments, #ThankYou.

Anderson: Well, let me ask you one question to close it out, this is what the people really wanna’ know. Do you still have the giant, round Superman bed from MTV Cribs?

Shaq: Yes, I still have it. Some Arab prince tried to challenge me, and he said his was bigger, so then I had to go two times bigger. So, instead of fitting fifty people, my bed fits a hundred people.

Anderson: So, if Cribs came back to your house, your bed would fit an entire bedroom?

Shaq: Well, no. I have a really big bedroom, but it’s a very, very large bed.


Alex Toledo and Cait Anderson contributed to this story.

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