Shaq is obviously a man of many talents. A Renaissance man of entertainment… if you would. He’s already known for his dancing, rapping and comedic abilities, but what you didn’t know, is that he is also quite the… soccer goalie.
At the conclusion of practice Monday, the 7-1, 325-pound center decided to test the soccer abilities of his fellow teammates. Shaq decided to jump in front of the elongated matt mounted on the wall along the baseline of the team’s practice court. The matt, which is approximately the size of a soccer goal, gave Shaq the opportunity to begin verbally challenging Steve Nash to attempt a penalty kick on him.
Nash, known for being a tremendously gifted soccer player, wasted no time in teeing the ball up from just outside the three-point line. After Shaq jabbed the Suns point guard with his usual lines of trash talk, Nash unfazed, calmly lined up the shot and drilled the basketball into the upper-left-handed corner.
The kick had a banana-like trajectory that caused the ball to nestle into the corner, leaving a stunned O’Neal frozen like a deer in headlights. When I mentioned to the right-footed Nash that I noticed he had taken the shot with his left foot, he responded, “Naturally. Would you expect anything less?”
I told him that once again, he was correct, and offered my apologies for even suggesting that he use his strong leg.
O’Neal, left unsatisfied from the ordeal, then set his sights on Leandro Barbosa. By default, and by being from Brazil, he is generally considered the next-best candidate after Nash for anything having to do with soccer.
So as the “Brazilian Blur” ran up and unleashed his shot on O’Neal, the “Big Cactus” reacted quickly and batted the shot away with his fist. It was a pretty impressive save, considering that Barbosa transformed the basketball into a rocket with all of speed he put on the shot. Not only was the velocity high, but it was a basketball, which is much heavier than a soccer ball.
Once O’Neal made the stop, he celebrated by running around the gym yelling maniacally. Somehow, somewhere during the celebration, Shaq stumbled upon Alando Tucker, which resulted in the big man tossing around poor Tucker like a rag doll (Side note: For some reason, it seems to be in Tucker’s continual destiny to get thrown around by Shaq when Shaq is feeling gleeful).
It was a jubilant moment for everyone, most of all, for Suns GM Steve Kerr, who won’t have to explain to the press that his star center injured himself moonlighting as a part-time soccer goalie.