Kenny Smith recalls rude awakening he had to deliver to Shaquille O’Neal for being ‘terrible’ in his early days on TNT

Jonathan Sherman
3 Min Read

Los Angeles Lakers legend Shaquille O’Neal is not only beloved for the success he enjoyed on the basketball court during his playing days, but also for his career as a basketball analyst on TNT.

O’Neal, along with Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley and Ernie Johnson, have delivered countless hours of entertainment for basketball fans before, during and after NBA games.

However, it was not always that way. When O’Neal first joined the network, it was clear that he lacked the experience needed to be a real success as a television personality.

It was Smith who delivered a wake-up call to O’Neal, letting him know where he needed to improve.

“We the only show on television that listens,” Smith said. “… Shaq didn’t listen at first, until he realized we were listening. … He was terrible honestly his first six months on the show. … He was terrible. Oh, he was terrible. He was terrible. And two things happened that made him great. I went to him first and I was like, ‘Bro, the stories you say in the green room are bananas. The stuff you saying about Kobe [Bryant] and — you gotta bring that to the —.’ He’s like, ‘Nah they don’t —.’ I was like, ‘Shaq, that’s one.’ I said, ‘The first — the other thing is like, this the first time in your life you ain’t the most dominant player, first time. Like, we might be better than you at this. So, just be you.'”

It’s a pretty fascinating look into what helped create arguably the most entertaining show about sports. The dynamic between the four personalities is hilarious to watch and always gets fans excited about whatever game the show is covering.

While O’Neal may have started out a bit rough around the edges, he has managed to find his voice.

The show is especially fun for Lakers fans, who now get to spend even more time watching someone that they all idolized back during his time in the NBA.

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Jonathan is a freelance writer, filmmaker, and passionate fan of the NBA. In the past Jonathan has covered politics, entertainment, travel, and more. He is a proud contributor of Lakers Daily.