The late-great Kobe Bryant ruffled a lot of feathers last summer when he said Shaquille O’Neal could’ve been the greatest ever, but he was just too lazy. Classic Kobe, saying stuff that he knows will cause a reaction. Lakers’ former head trainer Gary Vitti agrees with Kobe, but he gave a very insightful explanation of why Shaq didn’t reach his potential.
Kobe and Shaq were complete opposites in their NBA career – Kobe would eat, sleep and breathe basketball, while Shaq had a lot of off-court projects, from record albums to movies. Kobe would wake up at 3-4 am to have more workouts in a day, while Shaq didn’t practice as often as he should. This reputation followed Shaq’s most of his career. Vitti was there for Shaq and Kobe’s entire Lakers’ career and shared Kobe’s view on Shaq’s ‘lack of) dedication. But, he has learned a valuable lesson (via Fair Game):
“One of the things that Kobe taught me is that talent is the most overrated thing in life; it’s what you do with your talent. Shaq, on the other hand, taught me a couple of things. One, laugh a little each day and laugh at yourself, and maybe more importantly, that your dreams are yours. They’re not mine or anyone else’s. My dream for Shaq was for him to be the best of all time, that wasn’t his dream.”Gary Vitti
Vitti believes Shaq’s dream is to inspire young people to be the best at what they want for themselves, and he has been fantastic in doing that. So while he may underachieve compared to what Vitti and others wanted for Shaq, he overachieved off the court.
In addition to that, Shaq never had real competition in his position to push him to work as much as Kobe did. Shaq explained that you could get his 100% in the practice facility or the arena at his size and weight. Vitti added that the workouts and drills for bigs in Shaq’s era were quite dull and repetitive. There was not much to do to keep yourself engaged for hours on end.