The Miami Heat found a way to beat Oklahoma City 95-89 in Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Sunday, grabbing their first lead of the series at 2-1. Don’t color Shaquille O’Neal impressed, however. He’s disappointed in the fact that it was a close game and that coach Erik Spoelstra said his team is just grinding it out.
Shaq, a four-time champion and three-time Finals MVP, recalls his days of playing for a ring and says he never went into a Finals just trying to grind it out. Rather, he went in and tried to dominate and blow the other team out and that’s what he expects from teams now.
Shaquille O’Neal joined 106.7 The Fan in Washington D.C. with the Mike Wise Show to discuss being away from the game, what player is most ready to accept the torch as the best player since Michael Jordan, not being a part of the 1992 Dream Team, if losing in a Finals makes you hungrier to get back and win and why he’s not a fan of teams grinding it out at this juncture.
Is it hard for you being away from the game?:
“Actually it wasn’t hard because I learned a long time ago … when you told me, you said, ‘Shaq, unfortunately you’re always going to be judged if you continue to play at this level.’ So I knew once I dropped off of playing at a high level, it was going to open the doors up for people to say I’m old. So I knew it was time for me to be different. … If I’m not averaging 27 and 10, I don’t feel good about myself. Last year, when I was averaging six or eight points, I really didn’t feel good about myself. … As I sit there and watch the game, do I miss it and do I sit there and get goosebumps? Hell no. It’s over.”
If Kobe Bryant is ready to pass the baton of “Best Players Since Michael Jordan” is Kevin Durant ready for that before LeBron or does it belong to James, especially if he wins a ring?:
“It depends on how you define passing the baton. When the baton was passed to me, I didn’t have a championship, but it was passed to me because I was the youngest and I was the best player. If you call passing the baton by passing the championships, we’ll see by the end of this week. LeBron is more fit … because he’s been spotlighted since 18, named himself The King and there was a movie about his high school. Kevin Durant is more introverted. … But Kobe’s not done yet, either. Kobe has a lot of goals and aspirations. I know he wants to tie Mike.”
On the heels of celebrating the 1992 Dream Team, they only picked one college player on that team, Christian Laettner. Did you want to be on that team? Take us back to that:
“I was pissed off. I was jealous. But then I had to come to the realization that I was a more explosive, more powerful player, but Christian Laettner was a little bit more fundamentally sound than I was. Plus he stayed all four years and graduated. … I just think it helped me grow as a player.”
Does the pain of losing a championship fuel players more than we know and make it even sweeter when you get there?:
“Yes, the pain of losing does make you become stronger. However, though, in [Sunday’s] game, even though Miami won it, I don’t see enough fire. When I was at the Finals, I’m dominating, I’m pressuring the opponent and we’re going to get up by 20 and we’re going to dominate the game. I heard Erik Spoelstra say, ‘We just want to grind.’ No, we don’t want to grind out there. We want to get these guys. … But, however, they won the game. This game [tonight] is going to be a true test. … Their slogan in the locker room should be, ‘We’re not going back to OKC,’ which means you’ve got to win these three games at home and you win.”
More on not wanting to grind games out in the Finals:
“To come back home and for it to be a close game, I didn’t like that. When I was in the Finals, it was my team and teams came to the crib, we tried to blow their ass out. With OKC being up and them being up and them only winning by five and their coach saying, ‘We’re trying to grind the game out,’ nah, we’re not trying to grind the game out. We’re trying to kill OKC.”
Listen to Shaquille O’Neal on 106.7 The Fan in Washington D.C. here (Interview begins at 6:30)