If first impressions are any indication, Shaquille O’Neal should be proud. I had a chance to speak with his son, Shareef, at NBA All-Star Weekend in Chicago and I couldn’t have been more impressed.
After initially discussing his aspirations to one day participate in the festivities that make up All-Star Weekend, the younger O’Neal said that he plans to continue his next chapter by playing where his dad did, at LSU. As I told him, very big shoes to fill indeed.
“Real big footsteps,” he said, explaining his decision. “But I’m ready for it. Great program. Louisiana is a different scene. I’ve been in LA most of my life, but I’m ready for it.”
In late January, he announced he was transferring from UCLA.
O’Neal was also kind and candid enough to describe the final message he received from Kobe Bryant, hours before the tragic accident that took the lives of Kobe, his daughter Gianna, and seven others.
The text message remains as the screen saver on O’Neal’s phone. And of course, as the loss of Kobe was tough for so many of us, it was especially difficult for those who knew him.
To his credit, O’Neal did say the tragedy changed his focus and renewed his commitment to basketball tenfold because he believed Bryant would want him to do well.
When I asked him if that would qualify as Mamba Mentality, he agreed.
After our short conversation I was certainly convinced about O’Neal’s mentality, because he clearly has a good head on his shoulders.
He was also smart enough to identify that they would have to lower the rim to eight feet in order for me to complete a windmill dunk. I think he was being generous. I’ll take it.