Diesel was never the one to hide his admiration towards D-Rob. He idolized the guy and wanted to pattern his game after him. But somewhere along the line, that admiration turned into a rivalry.
First, it was the fight for the love of San Antonio that went in favor of Robinson, as the Spurs‘ franchise player overshadowed Shaq, who was coming in the scene as San Antonio high school standout. Then it was the Shaq shutdown during the ’94 NBA All-Star Game, when the Western Conference All-Stars, The Admiral included, conspired to embarrass Shaq. It culminated the night the Spurs steered David into scoring 71, securing him a scoring title over O’Neal by 0.5 points per game.
By that time, Shaq’s frustrations were piled up. His favorite player during high school time became his biggest enemy in the NBA. And not just basketball-wise, but also image-wise, since Robinson’s militaristic, charitable aura was the exact opposite to O’Neal’s flashy reputation.
So in order to gain any sort of competitive advantage over his idol, Shaq fed off a story. A story about how Robinson denied signing an autograph for him when he was 13, leaving young O’Neal in despair for getting snubbed by the one he looked up to. A story, that decades later, Diesel admitted was fabricated.
And while the NBA world had just found out about Shaq’s made up rumor, Robinson himself found out about it long ago. “We were on the Olympic team,” Robinson said. “We were sitting on the plane together, and I said, ‘Shaq, man, what is this stuff about me not signing an autograph?’ He was like, ‘Man; I’m sorry about that. I made that up.'”
Today, Shaq has nothing but respect for his basketball idol. In fact, it had never left him. This was just the way for O’Neal to get mad at the one who he looked up to for years. So in terms of a student taking out a teacher, it doesn’t get more Mr. Miyagi than this.