Shaq’s Lockout Plan?
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
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Shaq Still Thinking About Fighting: When future Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal decided to retire after 19 season in the NBA earlier this summer, we knew it wouldn’t be the last time we heard from the all-time great. Along with being one of the most dominant forces the league has ever seen, Shaq also possessed one of the most dynamic personalities. Always outspoken and fun loving, Shaq received multiple offers from various media outlets to join their basketball coverage.
He ended up signing a multiyear contract with Turner Sports and joining the award winning Inside the NBA postgame show with Ernie Johnson and fellow former players Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley. However, with the lockout there could be a delay in Shaq’s Turner Sports debut, which isn’t a big deal for him because there are plenty of other projects for him to invest his time in. Like for instance, mixed martial arts.
Shaq has been a longtime fan and supporter of MMA and in particular the UFC, the premier organization in the sport.
“I have to go on record and say now that MMA fighters are the greatest athletes in the world mentally and physically,” Shaq said on HDNet’s Inside MMA. “I’ve been watching these guys for a long time.”
Shaq was first introduced to MMA back in 1996 in Honolulu, Hawaii. UFC middleweight contender Vitor Belfort invited Shaq to watch him fight and promised him a 10 second knockout. It took Belfort two more seconds than he promised, but Shaq was hooked on the sport from that point on.
“Two years later I started training,” Shaq said. “The ironic thing about it is once I started training MMA style I started winning championships. For me it wasn’t about trying to be a fighter it was about doing some different training. I was doing all this basket training and it wasn’t really working. Training MMA is very, very difficult. You have to be very disciplined.
“It just helped me with my conditioning. I was a different type of player. I was basically in wrestling matches, so training basketball I would get tired. But training MMA style I never got tired, at all.”
When asked who he would like to fight from the NBA, Shaq went purely old school and listed Karl Malone, Charles Oakley, Charles Barkley, Xavier McDaniel and Danny Ainge – purely in jest. Late in his career, Shaq suggested that he would like to fight MMA’s biggest competitor in Korea’s Hong Man Choi, who stands 7’2 tall and weighs 355 lbs with a professional record of 2-3 in MMA. The challenge, originally made in 2009, hasn’t slipped Shaq’s mind and is actually something that he still seems to be considering.
“Growing up I’ve always fought smaller guys,” Shaq said. “I’ve never fought a guy my size. I was kind of serious at first. I’ve always said if I was to fight somebody I would like to see how I fair against somebody my size and there’s only one guy my size fighting, Hong Man Choi. I’m going to start training here in a couple of weeks. I’m just getting off of Achilles surgery. I’ll train and we’ll see. It may happen it may not happen. Again, if I was going to fight somebody it would have to be a seven foot guy.”
UFC President Dana White has made it clear that if Shaq does fight, it won’t be under the UFC banner. But there are other organizations that could be interested in making it happen. Who knows, if the lockout persists and Shaq trains seriously it could be something we see in the future. He’s already had an exhibition boxing match against Oscar De La Hoya on his old T.V. Show Shaq Vs. and while he may be at peace with playing basketball, the competitor in him will never retire.
Texas A&M And The SEC: According to reports, Texas A&M University is close to shaking up the college landscape by leaving the Big 12, which they’ve been a part of for 15 years, for the Southeastern Conference.
While not official yet, there are strong indications that the move could indeed be made official in the near future. If it does, A&M will likely make the move as soon as the 2012-2013 season.
Up to this point most of the talk has been surrounding things from a football and financial perspective. The impact of the move would be extremely interesting from the basketball side as well, though.
Combine that with the solid 2011 recruiting class and the Aggies could be rolling into the SEC come 2012-2013 as a viable candidate to win the league, especially if future pro Khris Middleton sticks around for his senior campaign. That’s a bit unlikely, though, since he’s widely projected to be a first round pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.
As far as basketball is concerned, this is really a good situation for the Aggies. They’ll remain in an elite conference with plenty of quality opponents and exposure. The rest of the SEC will have to take notice because the Aggies are going to come in hungry and looking to make a splash. They’re over 20 years removed from their last conference championship and that’s undoubtedly something Kennedy is going to look to change.
It’s Never Too Early: The High School basketball recruiting analysts at ESPN have been hard at work all summer scouting the best talent in the country on the AAU circuit. They’ve been releasing their class rankings throughout this past week and recently put out the top 25 players in the class of 2014. Heading the list of the premier sophomores is Andrew Wiggens, a 6’7, 200 lbs. swingman from Toronto, Canada. A lot can change between now and the time when these kids become seniors, but for those curious to know about some of the stars of tomorrow this is a must-read feature.
Yannis Koutroupis is a senior NCAA and NBA analyst for HOOPSWORLD. You can follow him on twitter.