© 2023 WYPR
WYPR 88.1 FM Baltimore WYPF 88.1 FM Frederick WYPO 106.9 FM Ocean City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

When Shaqtin a Fool Goes Wrong

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

There are few things more precious than the relationship between a boy and his mother.

It appears that relationship between Shaquille O’Neal and his mother, Lucille, may be enough to nip a bizarre feud in the bud.

Each Thursday night, millions of viewers tune in to TNT to catch a doubleheader of NBA games. Wrapped around those games is studio programming designed to prime the audience for what’s about to come and to focus it for what they’ve seen.

Inside the NBA, the aforementioned show is a freewheeling program where the panel, which includes the unfiltered Charles Barkley, is likely to say anything that comes to mind without a speedbump in between.

That includes O’Neal, who, like Barkley, is a Hall of Famer, though a center and an anomaly: a mostly beloved character despite being 7-foot and 350 pounds.

O’Neal is not quite as foolhardy as Barkley, but not for lack of trying. One of O’Neal’s contributions to Inside the NBA is a segment called Shaqtin’ A Fool, in which he presents the misdoings of NBA players.

One player who has made regular, if unwitting, appearances on O’Neal’s segments is JaVale McGee of the Golden State Warriors. Like O’Neal, McGee is a center, but there, the similarities end.

O’Neal is an all-time great, while McGee averages more minutes per game than points. Indeed, McGee isn’t even the best basketball player in his family.

That honor goes to his mother, Pamela, an All-America at Southern California. In her playing days, Pamela McGee won two NCAA titles and an Olympic gold medal and was the second player chosen overall in the 1997 WNBA draft at the age of 34.

Pamela McGee has steadfastly supported JaVale against charges that he is, shall we say, a goofball. There has been quite a bit of evidence to the contrary, like the time he tried for a triple-double at the end of a game where his team lost by 19 or when he missed a spectacular dunk rather than laying the ball in.

There are others, but you get the point. McGee marches to his own beat and O’Neal has frequently called him on it. So frequently, in fact, that after another Shaqtin-a-Fool mention last week, McGee had had enough, and attacked O’Neal on Twitter.

O’Neal fired back, also on Twitter, threatening violence against McGee, mockingly, we think. At any rate, the back and forth got so heated that McGee’s teammate, Kevin Durant, took his side against O’Neal.

McGee’s coach, Steve Kerr, a former TNT commentator, called the channel to ask them to get O’Neal to back off, on the theory that O’Neal’s attacks were a form of bullying and were damaging McGee’s attempt to clean up his reputation.

And that’s when Lucille O’Neal stepped in. Shaquille O’Neal said his mother, who is not 7-foot-1 or 350 pounds, told her son to stop picking on Pamela McGee’s son, in just the way a mom would tell a 12-year-old to stop teasing a five-year-old.

And so he did. Because Shaq is no fool. Even he knows that no matter how old you are and how big you may be, you always listen to your mama.

Which reminds me: I got a phone call to make.

And that’s how I see it for this week. 

Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.