Shaq Takes on Mountain Man


February 6, 2011

Shaquille O'Neal is a student of the game, especially in the past few years, as his career has progressed toward its conclusion. And he has listened to every shot taken at him by pundits, experts, and former players, especially Bill Walton.

 O'Neal is keenly aware of his strengths and weakness, having acknowledged that poor free throw shooting cost him a chance at the 30,000-point mark. But he also ranks himself among the all-time greats, which he should.

 Walton is the Joe Namath of professional basketball, an all-time great known more for moments in championship seasons than a long and distinguished career.

 For Namath, it was Super Bowl III. For Walton, it was leading Portland to its lone championship in 1977 and nine years later helping the Celtics to the 1986 title in a lesser role after years of foot injuries.

 Whether Walton is one of the all-time great centers is up for debate. He had a stellar career at UCLA and was dominant in his first few years in Portland, but he played in a total of 468 NBA games.

 While the Celtics were preparing to begin shootaround Tuesday in Sacramento, with Walton watching from the opposite baseline, O'Neal addressed Walton's assessment of his career.

 "I don't worry about my legacy," said O'Neal. "I look at it like this. If certain guys have legacies in this game and I have [expletive] tripled and quadrupled what the [expletive] they did, like Bill Walton, I'm straight. That's how I look at it. Real talk.

 "Everybody has a pen, so you know everyone is going to say otherwise. I know guys that are getting $60,000 speaking gigs over what they did 30 years ago.

 "My legacy is straight. I don't worry about it."
 O'Neal continues to be a marketing giant despite no longer being an All-Star player. He said he smartly invested his money early in his career, so he's set financially.

 "There's a time to be loud and a time to chill, and I'm 38, it's time to chill," he said. "I could have quit a long time ago. I won four [championships] and now I'm trying to get five

 "I've prepared myself for that [retirement] day. For like the first 10 years of my career, my father would tell me, 'You need to own some [things],' and I said, 'Why? I make a lot of money.' My father said, 'What if you hurt your knee?' It wasn't like I was really in business mode, but I've been thinking about it ever since."

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