Shaq: The Big Comedian

On the extra off day, Shaquille O'Neal was on.

Apparently bored by the second day between Games 3 and 4 of the NBA final, the larger-than-life superstar of the Los Angeles Lakers turned a 10-minute interview session into a stand-up routine that had the media roaring Tuesday at The Spectrum.

Just call him The Big Comedian.

Before he took his seat at the table, O'Neal was standing outside the room, waiting for coach Phil Jackson to finish his session.

Like any experienced entertainer, O'Neal poked in his head to see the size of the crowd before smiling with nervous, anticipatory glee.

It was not a full house, but those down on the Spectrum floor missed some absolute gems on a variety of subjects, such as:

  • on what he learned from his experience in the 1995 Finals with the Orlando Magic: "Not to party so much."

  • on his maturity: "Now that I'm an old, old veteran, age 29, I do things a lot differently. I don't do the gentlemen's clubs anymore. I had to slow that down."

  • on whether Sixers 7'2" center Dikembe Mutombo is a tough matchup: "I would say yeah. He's 7'8". Anybody 7"8' with shot-blocking ability would be hard to go up against."

  • on his ballhandling skills: "In the first couple series I pulled out my Allen Iverson crossover. I don't know if you people seen that or not."

  • on a reporter questioning whether he had ever committed four offensive fouls in a game before: "Your quote was I never had four fouls called by the same guy. The quote I said, I never had four offensive fouls in a game called by different guys. Ha, ha, ha. Got you. We have the court reporter right here. I will win. I will beat you."

  • on winning: "Whether you win by 20 or win by one, you win. For example, if you had a Mercedes-Benz with the rims or without the rims, guess what? You still have a Benz."

  • on his forceful play: "I always played mean. I just like playing mean. However, I'm not a mean person in real life. Unless you mess with me -- then I'll kick your (butt)."

In the last two NBA final, O'Neal's humor has bordered on uproarious.

Last year, he spent most of the series teasing Chicago Sun-Times writer Lacy Banks about his booming voice and lack of hearing.

One day, he began the session talking about breakfast muffins and flashed a smile that showed food particles all across his teeth.

This year, he stopped in the middle of answering a question to point out New York Times writer Mike Wise, who collaborated with him on his book, "Shaq Talks Back."

And like any entertainer, The Big Comedian sought approval from his audience.

"You like all my quotes, don't you?" O'Neal asked. "I'm a quotacious kind of guy."