Feeling Charitable Toward Shaq

Categories: Sports
Memo to Shaq: Tossing kids is not how you're supposed to practice free throws. Then again, whatever doesn't work...

It's almost to the point of sympathy--pity, really. With the way your Dallas Mavericks have dismantled the Miami Heat in taking a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals, it's like watching a heavyweight fight that needs to be stopped. Even worse is feeling embarrassed for the guy who not that long ago was the most dominating basketball player on the planet, Shaquille O'Neal. But now, almost overnight, Shaq has turned softer than Shakira. He still has the style, but no longer does he possess the substance.

When you get hammered by former punching bag Eric Dampier, you know it's time for a change. But Shaq isn't accustomed to admitting shortcomings. Just ask Gary Boren, the Mavericks' long-time free-throw coach. As a part of coach Don Nelson's U.S. National Team staff at the 1994 World Championships, Boren approached Shaq with suggestions about his wretched shooting. O'Neal's release is more of a jerky lunge than a smooth shot. Says Boren, "The first thing is he's gotta get some arc to his shot. It's not going through that steel sideways."

Shaq, however, was too proud and too successful and too stubborn to listen to a bespeckled geek who charts unguarded 15-footers. "He just wasn't receptive," Boren says. So now, Shaq is a ridiculous two of 16 from the charity stripe in the Finals, the Mavs are two wins from their first championship. And Boren is putting up plenty of "Told you so's." --Richie Whitt

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