Shaquille O’Neal will always be known as a Hall of Famer with a league MVP and four rings in his trophy case. But the former Los Angeles Lakers center is almost as good of a prankster as he was a basketball player.
It didn’t take long for O’Neal to become the proprietor of team pranks and rookie hazing. In the case of the latter, younger players feared the harsh retribution they’d receive if they didn’t go along with the hazing. In the case of one Lakers rookie, he learned then and there to always do as Shaq says.
Shaquille O’Neal would often haze rookie teammates
There are plenty of good stories about Shaq’s kindness, generosity, and mentorship toward teammates. But at the same time, you’ll find plenty of instances showcasing his love of pranks, with some of them crossing the line.
Dating back to his days with the Orlando Magic, O’Neal forced rookie Brooks Thompson to crawl on all fours during an entire team flight. With the Phoenix Suns, the big man hazed Goran Dragic by forcing him to carry a broken keyboard around when the team would go play away games. He also made Danny Green sing and dance on command when the two were teammates on the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Shaq’s hazing wasn’t always light and playful, however. One particular instance came during the 1999-00 season when O’Neal tricked rookie Devean George into staying late after practice for a chat.
“One by one, the veteran Lakers surrounded George,” Jeff Pearlman wrote in Three Ring Circus: Kobe, Shaq, Phil, and the Crazy Years of the Lakers Dynasty. “[They] ripped off his clothing, duct-taped his hands and mouth, forced him to the ground, and duct-taped his entire body to the court. Then they boarded the bus and left.”
Another extreme example of O’Neal’s hazing came early on in the Big Diesel’s career with the Purple and Gold.
Shaq taught Lakers rookie Shea Seals a lesson in following orders
During the 1997-98 season, O’Neal was as dominant as ever. It was almost hard to believe Shea Seals was on the same team.
Seals was an undrafted rookie out of Tulsa. His NBA career lasted one season, where the shooting guard saw action in four games and scored a grand total of four points. One day, Seals refused Shaq’s demand to bring him a Gatorade. From there, it took but a few hours for the rookie to reconsider his decision.
A few hours later, Seals emerged from the shower. Upon returning to his locker, he was surprised to see that his suit had vanished. “Rudy,” he said to [Lakers equipment manager Rudy] Garciduenas, “where’d my clothing go?”
Seals did a one-man hunt through the room. “Finally,” he said. “Rudy grabs my suit out of the bottom of a dirty locker with a bunch of shoes. It was dirty and wrinkled, and smelled really bad.”
When O’Neal spotted Seals, he said, “Do what I say,” and walked off.Jeff Pearlman, Three Ring Circus
That would end up being the last time Seals tried to test his luck against the future Hall of Famer.
“I learned not to mess with Shaq,” Seals told Pearlman. “I wasn’t going to win that one.”
Shaquille O’Neal was all business on the basketball court
O’Neal’s pranks in the locker room, hotel, and team plane made the 7-foot-1 star loved and feared. But on the basketball court, he proved himself as a leader and winner.
Shaq helped carry the Magic to the 1995 NBA Finals, six years after the franchise made its NBA debut. He would go on to form his legacy with the Lakers, winning three rings and three Finals MVPs. Then with a young Dwyane Wade, O’Neal added a fourth and final ring with the Miami Heat in 2006.
In total, O’Neal ended his career with 15 All-Star Game appearances, eight First Team All-NBA selections, two scoring titles, and too many thunderous dunks to count. Not to mention, too many rookie pranks to count, as well.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.