He’s proclaimed himself the Diesel, the Big Aristotle and Shaq Fu, among other nicknames.
Now Shaquille O’Neal has a few more monikers for himself in advance of his home run derby showdown with St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols for his ABC reality show.
When he was, er, little, the 7-foot-1-inch, 325-pound O’Neal said, he was known as Shaqqie Robinson.
And when he pitched? The Big Black Unit.
O’Neal told The Associated Press he once was a T-ball All-Star and a high school first baseman with the “world’s biggest strike zone.”
Don’t expect the normally chatty O’Neal to try to rattle Pujols during their confrontation, though.
“Usually I try to get into the mind of my opponent,” O’Neal said. “But I don’t think it’s wise to talk smack to a man who always has a bat in his hands.”
• WHAT THEY REALLY SAY — David Whitley of fanhouse.com thanked disgraced Cleveland Browns receiver Donte Stallworth for putting an end to the worst charade in sports: the prepared statement.
As evidence, Whitley presented both the official statement made by Stallworth after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him for the season after his DUI manslaughter conviction and what Stallworth had to say on Twitter a few hours earlier.
First, the statement: “Commissioner Goodell called me this morning. Obviously, I am disappointed, but, as I said previously, I accept the commissioner’s decision. Regardless of the length of my suspension, I will carry the burden of Mr. Reyes’ death for the rest of my life.”
The Twitter post: “TO ALL MY FAM IN THE LEAGUE: GOD BLESS Y’ALL, STAY HEALTHY, GOOD LUCK THIS SEASON!!! I’M WATCHIN EVERY (EXPLETIVE) GAME.”
• BITTER, BITTER … — Informed that the backboard and rim from Michael Jordan‘s famous last shot with the Chicago Bulls in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals at Salt Lake City’s Delta Center would go on sale via auction, one reader asked CNBC.com’s Darren Rovell: “Does the winner also get the left hand print Jordan used to push off Bryon Russell and get off a shot he never would have without some ‘assistance’?”
• BAD TO WORSE — Back in March 2001, Rick Pitino turned down an offer to be UNLV’s basketball coach, reportedly because of the program’s shaky scholarship situation at the time, a potential lawsuit by former coach Bill Bayno and the need to recruit primarily from junior colleges in the short term, an area in which he was not an expert.
But most Rebels fans point to the alleged tacky act of former athletic director Charles Cavagnaro, who was said to have left Pitino’s wife, Joanne, off at the curb at McCarran International Airport — rather than see her to her gate — after a visit to Las Vegas to check out the city.
In light of her husband’s public comedown — admitting to a drunken tryst six years ago with a groupie who seemingly has a screw loose — it appears Joanne Pitino is familiar with being dropped off at the curb by men.
Ol’ Rick should be grateful she didn’t kick him to one.
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS