Shaquille O’Neal, who collected a $23.5 million paycheck and planned toe surgery to save offseason plans: ‘Sick at work.’


Shaquille O’Neal was one of the most dominant centers in NBA history, but he was also known for his sometimes controversial decisions. Even though he was earning a staggering $23.5 million with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2002, O’Neal strategically planned for much-needed toe surgery during the regular season. The decision enraged coach Phil Jackson and teammate Kobe Bryant. This revelation is taken from Jeff Perlman’s book Three Ring Circus about the Lakers dynasty. It sheds light on his controversial choices and their ensuing consequences.

The strained dynamic created by O’Neill’s controversial decision put the Lakers in a difficult position. The clash between O’Neal’s personal priorities and team-wide goals became the focus of tensions affecting the franchise.

Teammates and coaches outraged by Shaquille O’Neal’s selfish decision

After the 2001-02 season, O’Neal’s decision to postpone surgery on his arthritic right big toe for more than three months was controversial. This deliberate delay was due to his desire to prioritize offseason plans. Despite the potential negative impact on the team. The Lakers, along with head coach Phil Jackson and his superstar teammate Kobe Bryant, were incredulous at O’Neal’s willingness to sacrifice parts of next season for personal reasons.

Phil Jackson is famous for his ability to manage star-studded teams. He never understood how a central player on the Lakers roster would be willing to miss out on valuable playing time. Especially considering the surgery could have been completed sooner. Kobe Bryant has been particularly vocal about his dissatisfaction with O’Neal’s decision. According to Three Ring Circus, the frustration from his teammates and coaches was clear. This created tension in the team dynamics.

O’Neill’s justification

There was skepticism about Shaquille O’Neal’s justification for postponing surgery, as you can see in an excerpt from Three Ring Circus.

“We had to hear three different opinions because this is my future, my life.” Shaq wrote.

O’Neill tried to defend his decision. But many saw it as an excuse to prioritize offseason plans and avoid spending the summer in a cast.

“If that wasn’t bad enough, O’Neal waited over three months after the 2001-02 season before scheduling the surgery he needed on his arthritic right big toe. This included Mitch Kupchak and Phil. Jackson and Bryant were furious, but no one could understand why he would be willing to miss a portion of next season when the organization’s centerpiece could have been avoided. A man who doesn’t want to spend the summer in a cast, so — a $23.5 million salary sucks — he insisted on waiting and dealing with the disease on “office hours.” is.”

Kobe Bryant’s humiliating comments reignite feud with Shaq

Tensions between Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal have reached new heights. Especially when Bryant publicly questioned O’Neal’s decision to delay his toe surgery. In a now-famous interview with Jim Gray, Bryant expressed disbelief at O’Neal’s willingness to miss 15 games because of his toe injury. Bryant’s frustration was evident, and he rejected O’Neal’s advice about playing through the pain, saying:

“I don’t need Shaq’s advice on how to play when I’m injured. I’ve played IV’s before…broken hand, sprained ankle, broken tooth, cut lip, softball. I had a knee that big, and as we all know, I didn’t miss 15 games because of a toe injury that wasn’t that serious.”

The feud between Shaq and Bryant intensified after Bryant interviewed Gray. The two players ended up clashing on the court, and the Lakers were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.

The decision to undergo surgery during the regular season was controversial, but ultimately it was up to O’Neill. However, his decision was not accepted by his coaches and teammates. It eventually led to the fall of the Lakers dynasty.



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