Shaq Backs NBA Refs in Contract Talks
O'Neal said Friday that he was surprised and disappointed the league was asking the officials to make significant concessions and take reductions in their pension benefits.
O'Neal knows first hand what can happen during a lockout when the league turns to replacement officials. People get hurt."The refs have been vital to this league for a long time. They should be treated accordingly. We need perfection out there. We don't need second best."
-- Shaquille O'Neal
The NBA used replacement officials at the start of the 1995-96 season, and they were rounded criticized for being unable to control the games. During a particularly physical exhibition game that season, O'Neal had his right thumb fractured when he was karate chopped by Matt Geiger before he went up for a dunk. It was the start of O'Neal's final season with the Magic. Geiger was playing for the Miami Heat.
O'Neal had surgery two days later, and he missed the first 22 games of that regular season.
Lamell McMorris, lead negotiator for the union, told FanHouse Friday that a potential lockout "should scare everyone because of what could happen.''
"The refs have been vital to this league for a long time. They should be treated accordingly,'' O'Neal told FanHouse Friday morning. "We need perfection out there. We don't need second best (replacements). The league needs to get this done.''
O'Neal was back home in Orlando, preparing to play golf in his favorite charity event -- his mother's fundraiser that provides nursing scholarships at several colleges in Florida and New Jersey -- when he was asked Friday about the officials.
"I feel for them. They work hard out there, just like we do,'' he said. "When you look at all that's going on with the league. This is a big year. We need them out there.''
Without a new deal, replacement officials will be used when the exhibition schedules begins Oct. 1. The NBA has not begun a season without its regular referees since 1995.