LSU Short Story
Shaq's Last Years at LSU - 2
Shaq Uncut, Shaquille O'Neal with Jackie MacMullan (2011)
Read Part 1
When I started my junior season in 1991, I had an idea it would be my final year of college. I averaged 21 points and 14 rebounds a game, which was second in the nation. I led the country with 5.3 blocks, but again someone else won the Naismith and the Wooden ahead of me. This time it was Duke center Christian Laettner.
The first time I played against Laettner, in Feburary 1991 in Durham NC, he completely destroyed me. He embarrassed me. He back-doored me to death and walked off with 24 points and 11 boards. I had never head of him. I remember asking, "Who the hell is this guy?" He fundamentally undressed me, so after that, I was keeping an eye on him.
Coach got us a rematch the next season, my final year at LSU, and a week before the game I strained my calf muscle. I was really sore, but I had to play because people were talking about Laettner and Georgetown C Alonzo Mourning with a little more breath than they were about me, and I couldn't have that. I just had to be the No. 1 pick.
I taped up my cal and I took it to Laettner. Hard. I dropped 25 and 12 on him and I blocked 7 shots, but they came from behind and won. I'll never forget Laettner's face when I was dunking on him. He looked terrified. I was talking all sorts of trash to him, too.
Years later, I played with him in Miami and discovered he was a really nice guy. I didn't know. Back in college, I hated everyone from Duke. I knew people who went to Duke had to be smart. I knew I wasn't that smart. Growing up where I did, I never learned all those words they put on those entrance exams.
I broke the LSU school record for blocked shots in my final season, and they presented me with the ball before one of our games. My parents always sat in the same place, right behind the student section, so I turned to my father, pointed to him, and threw him the ball. ... Some student jumped up in front of my dad and snagged the ball. You should have seen Sarge's face. The kid was smart enough to hand it over to him.

L: Shaq vs Christian Laettner; M: Shaq wrestles with Carlus Groves; R: Shaq vs Indiana
All of our games were sold out in '91-'92. Students were camping outside the gym the night before to get tickets. I was signing autographs all over the state of Louisiana. A family in Baton Rouge named their newborn son after me, so I showed up at their house, unannounced, to take some pictures.
The people at LSU get this great idea to print up these T-shirts with a drawing of me doing my signature dunk where I'm hanging on the rim with my legs kicked up like Rony Seikaly.
They printed up a whole bunch of these T-shirts and were going to sell them during one of our games. I don't really know anything about it, but when Sarge walks into the arena and sees those T-shirts, he loses it. One thing about my father is he's not going to let anyone take advantage of our family.
We were in our locker room, and Coach Brown was delivering his pregame speech when boom! The door flies open, and here comes Sarge. His eyes are popping out of his head, he's so pissed off. He's got one of the T-shirts in his hands and he's shouting, "What the fuck is this about? What makes you think this is all right?"
He told Dale, "We could be taking money. We've been offered plenty of stuff through the years, but we haven't done it that way. We've done it the right way. And now you're going to make money off my son? I got a big problem with that."
Everyone is quiet. No one is saying a thing. I'm more than a little embarrassed. Everyone knows your parents aren't allowed in the locker room before the game. But Sarge has got a point.
Next thing I know, he's telling Coach Brown that unless the T-shirts are taken down and put away, I wasn't going to play in the game. Now I've got my head down. I want to disappear.
But Coach Brown is really good. He's used to dealing with Sarge. He gets him calmed down. The T-shirts disappear. I play in the game. We avoid a major meltdown.
Bo spends a good part of my final season driving to the mall and handing out "cease and desist" orders to stores who were making and marketing their own Shaq Attack T-shirts.
By then teams were having trouble stopping me, so they were fouling me on purpose. Sometimes, the fouls crossed the line from a "hard" foul to downright dirty. Coach Brown told me, "Don't take all that abuse. If they try to hurt you, I'm giving you permission to hit them back."
We played Tennessee in the first round of the SEC tournament that spring. We were up by 22 points, and I was dominating this guy named Carlus Groves. I got the ball in the post, and he grabbed me and jerked me backward and tried to haul me down. I was so mad I wanted to break his jaw. I went to push him off my back and all hell broke loose.
Next thing I know Coach Brown is out there going right for Groves. When I saw I thought, Wow, he's sticking up for me. After the game he called the NCAA and told them, "Hey, if you don't want these guys to get hurt you better do something, because I'm going to tell Shaquille to play with his elbows up from now on. He's getting killed out there, and you are always blaming him."
Of course, meanwhile he's telling me to keep my composure and don't let these other players goad me into doing something stupid.
The refs threw me, Groves, and nine other players out of the game. Not only that, but I was suspended from playing our semifinal game against Kentucky. I was hot. Some guy purposely tries to hurt me, and I have to pay the price? Tennessee's SEC season was over because we beat them. So what penalty did they get?
Coach Brown was so mad about the suspension he was going to sit out the game and pull our team in protest. I told him I appreciated it, but I thought he should be out there. He really wrestled with it, but in the end he did coach the game. We lost to Kentucky 80-74.
My final season at LSU ended with a loss to Indiana in the second round of the NCAA tournament. They were a higher seed than us, but it didn't stop people from wondering why LSU didn't go further in the tournament with Shaquille O'Neal.
All I can tell you is, in my final college game, I had 36 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 blocks. I was also a perfect 12 of 12 from the free-throw line, so what else could I do?
Indiana was the kind of slow-down, motion offense team that always bothered us. They kind of lulled us to sleep. We liked that fast-paced up-and-down style.
Right after we lost, in March 1992, I left campus. I did it quietly, without saying much at all. ... I remember taking one last look at the LSU campus when I pulled out of there in my cranky old Ford Bronco II. I was a little sad, a little nostalgic.
But then I closed my eyes and started dreaming about which car I'd be driving the next time I came on campus. When I opened them up again, I was smiling.
It was time to go.