Shaq Rips Officials After Fouling Out Quickly in Celtics' Loss
He didn't like it one bit. And he didn't mind telling you.
O'Neal, one of the greatest centers in NBA history, fouled out after only 12:39, leaving the game after a controversial charge against Magic center Dwight Howard.
The Magic won the game, 86-78, even though Howard managed only six points in 33 minutes. Howard finished with five fouls. He wasn't happy with the officiating either, but the victory softened his displeasure.
O'Neal, 38, is chasing his fifth NBA title, having won three with the Lakers and one with the Heat. Even though he is long past his prime, O'Neal always gets charged up to play against Howard, now the best center in the league.
"We have two premier big men out there today. He is pushing, I'm pushing. Let us play,'' O'Neal said. "If I was fan, I would be pissed. You pay all that money for good seats and you have two of the best guys in the country sitting on the bench. That's what happens when you have control freaks out there.''
O'Neal was referring to the officiating crew, and particularly veteran official Bob Delaney, who wears No. 26 on his back.
"I guess they (fans) come out to see No. 26 play. He was a great player out there today,'' O'Neal said. "They paid all that money to see No. 26 come play. My thing is, if you're going to call it, call it the same way every time. Don't pick and choose who you are going to call it against.''
O'Neal had just two points, one rebound and one steal in his abbreviated stint. It was the 13th time in his career he has played on Christmas Day, which is an all-time high in the NBA. Although he didn't like the officiating throughout the game, he was particularly upset at his final personal foul with 9:20 remaining, which immediately followed his only basket of the game.
Although neither had the ball, he and Howard were wrestling for position around the basket, and Howard fell. It was two seasons ago, when O'Neal was playing for Phoenix that Magic coach Stan Van Gundy accused him of flopping to draw a foul against Howard.
"Did he take a dive?'' O'Neal repeated the question. "Of course he did, but the referees fell for it like they always do.''
Howard, in the Magic locker room, was in a much better mood. He was laughing and joking through his post-game media sessions. He was wearing a wild-looking wig during the interview, saying he wanted to look like Jermaine Jackson.
Howard struggled offensively, taking only four shots and making one. He finished with a season-low six points. But he did get a game-high 11 rebounds and blocked five shots.
"I didn't flop,'' Howard said laughing. "I just tripped.''