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Original Issue

Books The author is decisive, witty and positively brilliant. Just ask him

Shaq Talks Back
by Shaquille O'Neal/St. Martin's Press, $23.95

"Me and Nietzsche got something in common," writes Shaquille
O'Neal, and he is not wrong. Friedrich Nietzsche, the
19th-century German philosopher, penned an autobiographical
paean, the first chapter of which is titled, "Why I Am So Wise."
Shaq's new memoir is such a festival of egomania, the same title
would do nicely.

Of course, narcissism is not what Shaq is thinking of when he
claims fraternity with the author of Also Sprach Zarathustra. He
means that "Nietzsche was a guy who was so intelligent that they
thought he was weird," he writes. Apparently some people think
that Shaq's a little weird, so you can draw your own conclusions.
To prove how smart he is, Shaq offers long lists of ideas that he
says he thought up all by himself. By his account, it was his
idea for the Orlando Magic to trade for Penny Hardaway in 1993
and to hire Chuck Daly as coach, which Orlando later did in 1997
after Shaq had gone to the Lakers; Shaq even claims credit for
enlisting a Chihuahua as spokesdog for Taco Bell.

When you're as smart as Shaq, or Nietzsche, you often find
yourself burdened with men of inferior intellect, such as former
Magic coach Brian Hill ("didn't respect him," Shaq writes) and
former Los Angeles Lakers coach Del Harris ("couldn't take him").
He holds nothing back in the chapter that addresses his often
tense relationship with Kobe Bryant ("What was there to be
jealous of? I already had my soda deal"), though in the end, he
praises Bryant for his play in the NBA finals.

One of the book's few tender moments comes when Shaq's pit bull,
Die Hard, is bitten in half by an alligator. Shaq has the dog's
remains cremated and then lovingly places the urn with the ashes
on a shelf. In addition to his dead dog, Shaq loves his mama, his
stepfather and his agent (Leonard Armato). However, he's still
angry at Pat Riley for having played him "only" 25 minutes in the
1992 All-Star Game, and he wants Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to know that
were the Hall of Famer playing today, Shaq would "bust his ass."

None of this will surprise anyone familiar with the monster egos
of the NBA, but here's something that might surprise you: Shaq
claims that SI swimsuit model Tyra Banks "ain't my type." He
prefers...Tori Spelling! "I tried to hit on Tori," he writes,
"but she wasn't havin' any of it."

Maybe she doesn't like guys who remind her of Nietzsche.