When you hear the name Shaquille O’Neal, a handful of things probably spring to mind. Maybe you think of the center’s dominant NBA career, especially his partnership with Kobe Bryant. Perhaps you remember his countless commercials or arguments with Charles Barkley on Inside the NBA. No matter your preference, the phrase “spoiled brat” probably doesn’t appear on your mental list.
Apparently, we can thank Bill Russell for that.
During a recent appearance on The Rich Eisen Show, Shaq was asked about the late Celtics legend. After paying his respects, O’Neal explained how Russell completely changed his perspective and helped him realize that he was standing on the shoulders of giants.
Shaq learned a valuable lesson after sitting down with Bill Russell
For most basketball fans, spending some time hearing Bill Russell’s stories would have been a dream come true. During his NBA career, Shaquille O’Neal had that exact experience and came away from it as a new man.
“Top two greatest big men ever. One of the nicest gentlemen ever. I learned from him. He made me realize I was a spoiled brat, that I was complaining,” the Diesel told Rich Eisen. “What I mean by that [is] when I first met Bill Russell, high, jovial, giggly, and he started telling me stories. Stories I had no idea [about] like couldn’t stay in the same hotel with your teammates and people throwing things at you and death threats and this and that. I was like, ‘You know what? I’ma stop complaining.’
“Because it was for guys like him and Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem, they paved the way for me. Barkley, those guys, Magic, they paved the way for me to make a lot of money. So, by listening to all the stories that Mr. Bill Russell told me, I just said, ‘Stop complaining. Stop complaining about anything. Don’t say nothing. You make a good living because of what all these people had to go through.'”
Later in the interview, Eisen followed up and asked Shaq if Russell ever said that he was complaining too much. O’Neal doubled down, saying that the late legend only shared his stories and, upon hearing those experiences, everything clicked.
“I just realized it,” the former Laker explained. “A lot of times, you can see the title of a book. ‘Oh, he’s a great player. Best player ever.’ But then when you open the book, you’re like, ‘Oh my god, he had to go through all of this.’ So, this was like the first time I met him, he was sitting down, I think he’s at the Four Seasons, he was just drinking water, and he was just telling me stories. I didn’t get to get a word out, he was just … and he’s happily telling me these stories. But I’m like, ‘Damn, y’all didn’t travel private? You didn’t get to stay in the hotel?’ Every hotel I went to, I had to have the biggest suite, Rich. It’s just how I was. And he was like, ‘Man, we had to stay in other hotels, we couldn’t drink water out the water fountain.’ And I actually felt bad.
“And these guys were the greatest players ever, and they didn’t even make one-fourth of the money that we made. So, I decided to myself, ‘OK, I’mma stop complaining.’ And I’m gonna play hard for these guys. I’mma let them know, ‘Thank you, I appreciate you, and, you know, whatever you need.’ Nobody had to tell me. I was smart enough and conscious enough to that, ‘Hey, you’re a spoiled brat. You’re not even that good yet. You get swept every year in the playoffs. Shut your face up, pick your game up, and start winning championships.'”
During his life on and off the court, Bill Russell made an incredible impact. We can apparently add helping Shaquille O’Neal grow up to that list.