Shaquille O’Neal is back in the game of spouting off at someone who plays across the country. This time it isn’t former LA Laker teammate Kobe Bryant..…it is Seattle Sonic Danny Fortson.
Fortson is an NBA throwback to when there were “enforcers” in the league. Guys that gave hard fouls…played tough defense…and got under the skin of the opponent. Dennis Rodman and Bill Laimbeer made careers out of that. Fortson is staying in the league because of it. He is around 6-7 and has gained a few pounds in the past few years. But he is willing to use those pounds to knock the crap out of people, grab boards and just peeve everyone off who he has to play against.
Now he’s peeved Shaq off.
In fairness to Shaq…he normally doesn’t have to deal with people actually trying to be physical with him. Most try to stay out of his way. In today’s NBA…centers are either short chubby guys like Fortson….lanky centers like Camby or big softies like Olowokandi. Guys like Ewing, Robinson and Hakeem are gone to retirement homes. Resident Shaq-flopper Vlade Divac is in the twilight of his career [and took Shaq’s old gig in LA]. So, of course Shaq is angry that someone isn’t moving out of his way. Everyone else does.
Well…Kobe Bryant didn’t. Say what you want about Kobe....but he actually challenged Shaq publicly....and probably privately. Shaq hates that kind of thing…since we all need to bow down to him. At least Kobe was his teammate for 7 years and fellow superstar on the Lakers’ billing. Danny Fortson is, at best, an NBA journeyman that keeps staying in the NBA with his garbage man mentality. The Sonics are his fifth home in his 8 year NBA career. He's been involved in trades with Johnny Newman, Joe Wolf, Ervin Johnson, Eric Williams, Eric Washington, Ron Mercer, Popeye Jones, Dwayne Schintzius, Robert Pack, John Williams, Dana Barros, Bill Curley, Howard Eisley, Donyell Marshall, Bruno Sundov, Adam Keefe, Antawn Jamison, Chris Mills, Jiri Welsch, Evan Eschmeyer, Nick Van Exel, Avery Johnson, Popeye Jones, Antoine Rigaudeau and Calvin Booth.
So, this recent exchange between Shaq and Fortson was quite newsworthy. Don’t be too surprised…these two have gone at it before [Shaq referred to Fortson as a “bum“].
Both players in their "slimmer" years
SHAQ: ''All they do is flop and the referees fall for it. That's not basketball. Big men, Bill Russell and Bill Walton, they should be ashamed to even watch the game.''
FORTSON: "You know something? That is a cop-out. Write this down. If he can't go out and bang, if he can't get two or three feet underneath the basket, he is ineffective. My goal is to keep him out of the paint. That is not an easy task to do. That is easier said than done. But I am going to try to keep him out of the paint and see how good he is. I challenge him to take a jump hook. Take a couple jump shots. I bet you he can't do that. Of course he is going to complain about flopping because he has to be inside to score buckets. If he doesn't get inside to score buckets, he might as well give the ball to Dwyane Wade and move back."
SHAQ: ''Tell him to average more than eight points. That [expletive] knows what he was doing. I don't have to shoot from more than two feet. I'm top 50. I've got 23,000 [points] from where I shoot. You saw the game. You saw what he did. Don't [flop] and then act like you can handle the Diesel.''
FORTSON: "I don't even know what he is talking about. He is the big man. He's the one that wants to go out there and dunk on everybody, like he's been doing. I'm not going to feel sorry for him. He is the biggest man in the world and he's worried about guys flopping? That is kind of crazy, you know. One flop? I only got one flop? Besides that, who wouldn't flop against Shaq? But for the most part, Bill Walton and Bill Laimbeer and Charles Barkley would be proud of how I went head-to-head with him. Especially Charles Barkley. You know what I'm saying? For the most part I was in there battling with him. I am going to play hard. It ain't going to be no different on Sunday. We are going to do the same thing, and it is going to be the same results. We are going to win the game if we play hard. I am going to try to stay focused like I was in Miami. It's no easy thing. It's a work in progress for me. But if I stay focused, it's like David and Goliath, I win again."
SHAQ: "He upset me. He woke me up. You don't want to awaken me."
FORTSON: "He's just another big lug, as far as I'm concerned, that I've got to push around."
SHAQ: "You can't get into my head. I've been through it all. You learn through experience and you adapt to certain situations. I've been through the changing of the rules, the changing of the defenses. But you can't get into my head. It's locked, sealed, super-glued shut."
As the game ended in yet another Seattle Super Sonics victory over the Miami Heat…..Shaq did something odd. He sought out Fortson and gave him a hug.
Imagine if he did that to Kobe.