cover image Shaq Uncut: My Story

Shaq Uncut: My Story

Shaquille O’Neal, with Jackie MacMullan. Grand Central, $27.99 (304p) ISBN : 978-1-4555-0441-1

The retired NBA giant with the huge game and personality to match dominates in this boisterous, peevish memoir. O’Neal is surprisingly generous towards his stepfather, a man who, he claims, disciplined him with frequent beatings while nurturing his basketball talent. He’s testier towards Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant, who comes off as an aloof ball-hog, Utah star Greg Ostertag—“he was mouthing off again, so I turned and slapped him upside the head”—and anyone else who doubted or dissed him. Paced as if by shot-clock, the meandering narrative flits between arena, locker-room and an off-court life lived large—“The guy buys me a $150,000 Rolex watch for shaking his hand”—on hundreds of millions of dollars in salary, endorsements, movie parts, rap albums, reality show, and self-satisfied smirking. (“I am Shaq. Bigger than life, brother. Bigger than life.”) Braggadocio aside, O’Neal has intriguing insights into the fraught group dynamics of a sport where positional roles are uniquely ill-defined: the persistent tension between automatically passing the ball to the star and giving lesser teammates a shot; the rivalry between “alpha dogs” and up-and-comers; the slightly jealous mentoring of young phenoms by aging, diminished veterans. Preening and prickly, Shaq’s reminiscences illuminate the knotty psychology behind the swagger. Photos. (Nov. 15)