Yahoo’s Vincent Goodwill is in conversation with NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal about player salaries and free agency, what his career would’ve been like had he been a little bit smaller, the one honor he wants but has yet to receive and how he’s teamed up with Pepsi again, decades after their classic commercial became a pop culture flashpoint.
– Joining the show today, one of the best big men, greatest big men in the history of basketball and one of the best rapping big men that I’ve ever heard in my life. Shaquille O’Neal joining us on behalf of Pepsi. And the theme of the commercial, Shaq– if you weren’t seven feet tall, 7′ 2″, if you were 6′ 5,” you still making the league? You still making this impact?
SHAQUILLE O’NEAL: Probably not.
– Really? You don’t think you would have been a bomb small forward?
SHAQUILLE O’NEAL: No, I think because what makes me unique is that I’m extremely different from the norm. And what I mean by that, there’s a lot of seven footers. But I’m extremely different. So which it makes me stand out. If I was 6′ 5,” I’d have to be super extremely different like a Jordan, and a Kobe, and LeBron. It’s just too much to compete with.
– You were, in my opinion, the last true free agent because there was no max salary. Teams could offer you whatever they wanted to offer you. So they dictated what they wanted to pay you. When you were a free agent in ’96 and you were deciding between Orlando and LA, do you think the NBA should go back to not having a max salary and just letting teams offer you what they feel like you’re worth?
SHAQUILLE O’NEAL: I mean, they probably have to have a max salary because there’s a lot of money being made, especially now. I actually heard a rumor that guys like [? Luca ?] will be making up to $80 million a year. The only thing I would like to– if they would uphold this– is professionalism.
You know, like, when I wanted to be traded, I call you, my agent, Mr Goodwill, and you handle it. Not going back and forth, and he’s a liar and, like, this just makes everybody look bad because I’ve met James Harden. He’s a nice guy. But reading all this stuff, you don’t know who’s what, who’s doing what, who’s saying what. So I would like it to be fines if it’s not a level of professionalism that’s not withheld.
– Shaq, you don’t have your number retired in Orlando. They don’t have numbers retired in Orlando. Do you think that should change?
SHAQUILLE O’NEAL: I’d like to be the first if they ever decide to do that. I would definitely like to be the first.
– Shaq, I’ve seen the commercial. Like, what was the idea behind it?
SHAQUILLE O’NEAL: Well, 30 years ago, we did Pepsi Big Slam commercials talking about how hard it was to be as big as The Big Diesel. What made that commercial with the little kid was at the end.
– Don’t even think about it.
SHAQUILLE O’NEAL: That was the beginning of our great relationship with Pepsi. So when they came around with the mini cans, and they came with the concept of [INAUDIBLE], I wish. I was like, you know what? Let me do it. And sometimes I do wish I was a regular-sized guy. Like, when I was young.
You see all those Jordans on your wall? Probably the only superstar who never had a pair of Jordans. Think about that. Never had it because when Jordan came on around the scene, I was in high school. But I was size 17. They didn’t have 17s around. And if I did find them, I wasn’t going to be able to pay $200 for them. So I’ve never had a pair of Jordans. I would have liked to have a pair of Jordans growing up to be in that little cool factor.
So when it comes to being cool with Pepsi mini can, I was like, you know what? I definitely want to be a part of this.