After an immensely successful 19-year career concluded, many in the basketball world wondered what was left for Shaquille O’Neal to accomplish. A 4-time NBA champion and 15 time All-Star with a platinum rap album to his credit, Shaq continues to make waves in his post-professional career.
Years of increased criticism over a perceived decline in both skill and effort led to retirement from professional basketball in the summer of 2011. However, this does not mean that Shaq has given up the sport he loves. He is a prominent member of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in his hometown of Sundbury, Mass. There, Shaq leads the “Shaq Diesels,” a rec basketball team that participates in the organization’s informal winter league.
Named after Shaq’s platinum-selling album, the Diesels lead in scoring, assists, and minutes by 36-year old Sundbury area insurance salesman Dennis Woode, who was also recently voted captain of the team. Shaq, however, has no issues with this.
“Denny did play D-II college ball, so he’s got the skills,” said the 2000 NBA MVP. “It’s sort of like when I was in Miami with [Dwyane] Wade or with that asshole on that other team [Kobe Bryant in LA or Lebron James in Cleveland]. I defer to the young guy and offer support.”
Primarily coming off the bench, Shaq continues to be plagued with the issues that slowed his later NBA career, including bad knees, poor free throw shooting, and an irresistible attraction to all-you-can-eat Barbecue buffets.
“The other guys play tough around Shaq, which isn’t always fair,” said Woode. “But it allows me and the other guys to get open. We make him promise not to punch people, though. It’s difficult for him to understand that not everyone here is built like Ben Wallace.”
The Shaq Diesels have started their season 6-3-1. Two losses were close and fought to the buzzer, and the tie resulted from both teams’ inability to field five men teams due to the 2:30 PM weekday start time. “Kid’s Karate takes precedence, I get that,” said a dismissive Shaq.
His team is currently in second place in the league, trailing several games behind the the team led by his former Lakers teammate Nick van Exel.