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Published: Sunday, 5/13/2001

O'Neal not so large off the basketball court

I realize it's all immature diversion, shoptalk, bull, locker-room gossip.

Look around. How many of your friends, enemies, co-workers, partners from high school and college bragged about their romantic exploits?

So many, you probably lost count through the years.

Did you believe them?

Were you fascinated or repulsed?

Everything considered, things must be terribly boring in the Shaquille O'Neal household. Everything considered, things must be terribly boring in the Shaquille O'Neal household.
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Such juvenile behavior can originate as early as adolescence in males and, with rare exceptions, ends upon marriage or the first sign of midrift bulge - whichever comes first.

Everything considered, things must be terribly boring in the Shaquille O'Neal household.

In the midst of leading the Los Angeles Lakers to a second straight NBA championship, O'Neal spent the past week apologizing for appearing on a Los Angeles morning drive radio show and lying to the audience that he slept with model Cindy Crawford, tennis star Venus Williams and actress/singer Aaliyah.

Word reached Williams, who released a terse statement that she barely knew O'Neal, meeting him once a few years ago at a Lakers game.

“If Shaquille made the statement as a joke,” Williams said, “it was in very bad taste, and I'm definitely offended.”

Crawford and Aaliyah also issued denials refuting O'Neal's boyish boast.

O'Neal insisted he meant no disrespect. He's so full of himself he probably believed he was doing the ladies a favor.

“It was a bad joke,” said Shaq, apparently still feeling no shame. “Not everyone has a great sense of humor like me.”

O'Neal is here to remind us at 7-1, 315 pounds, with one of the most lucrative contracts in pro sports, that the biggest, strongest and richest among us get to establish the rules.

Wilt Chamberlain, another 7-foot basketball star, stated matter-of-factly before his death that he bedded 20,000 women.

On the court, O'Neal, who wears a Superman tattoo, plays like the man of steel. No one can stop him.

Where's the obstacle in that? Where's the challenge for O'Neal?

When the Shaq-Kobe Bryant rift finally subsided, it was Bryant, not O'Neal, who relented.

Shaq is egotistical enough to believe he is bigger and better than everybody in everything, even when he's not dominating basketball games and using real-life skills.

Shaq is missing the point.

It's not OK to insult someone's wife, daughter, mother or sister, as O'Neal blithely did without thinking, simply because he believes he's better than the rest of us.

It's not funny. It's wrong.

Shaq needs to get a grip.

And grow up.

In the Lakers' locker room, where nothing is sacred, especially not concerning players' relationships with women other than their wives and serious girlfriends, Shaq has told bigger lies than sleeping with three famous women. Trust me.

Shaq is like the bully who can't tell a joke. Everyone is too scared not to laugh.

When in fact, in all the ways that really matter, it is others who are much bigger and stronger than Shaq.

And that's no joke.

John Harris is a Blade sports columnist. E-mail him at jharris@theblade.com.



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