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Volume 24 No. 156
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Shaq Says He Chose Turner Over ESPN Due To "Better Fit"

New Turner Sports NBA analyst Shaquille O’Neal Thursday said he signed with TNT because “it was a better fit” than ESPN, which also pursued the recently retired NBA star. O’Neal said, “Especially with Charles, Kenny and Ernie. Those guys are very, very real. It was my favorite show, and I was just glad to have the opportunity to join.” Expanding on his reason for choosing Turner, O’Neal said, “I wanted to be a good, clean, honest businessman. I didn’t want to put people in a bidding war. Both sides made very good offers … but I thought Turner/TNT was the greater fit for me.” O’Neal said he considered an offer from ESPN he called “very competitive,” but added, “I didn’t get into this for a monetary aspect, so I didn’t want to put two great entities in a bidding war” (, 7/14). He added, “It was an easy decision. The guys are very fun over there. They like to, as they say in the sports world, keep it real, and I thought it was the best fit for me” (NEWSDAY, 7/15).

USA TODAY’s Michael McCarthy wonders, “Will one set be big enough … for The Diesel and Sir Charles?” The “funny, charismatic, four-time NBA champion could make a great addition to the popular Barkley-Smith-Johnson team.” Turner President of Sales, Distribution & Sports David Levy also said that Barkley was “one of the biggest proponents of hiring O’Neal.” But McCarthy writes O’Neal “has a tendency to mumble and talk in a low, monotone voice,” and “chemistry’s a funny thing in TV sports.” McCarthy: “What works on paper doesn’t always work in reality” (USA TODAY, 7/15). O’Neal said, “Charles is a funny guy, he’s a guy that says what’s on his mind. We’re going to make it very fun. We’re going to make it very exciting for the fans to watch” (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/15). Meanwhile, in N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes O’Neal is a “sharp, funny guy, but now it’s time to learn to stop mumbling” (N.Y. POST, 7/15). Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan: "It’s a fact that if you’re not standing next to him, almost inside his shirt after a game, you can’t hear a word he says. He is a mountain of man who whispers” ("PTI," ESPN, 7/14).

CRITICAL THINKING: O'Neal said that he was "willing to be critical when necessary.” O’Neal: “I don’t think it will be hard. I have the ability and backing to give fair criticism. The only time I have a problem with people giving criticism is when they haven’t walked that walk. I have walked many walks in my 19-year career” (PALM BEACH POST, 7/15). Miami Herald columnist Dan Le Batard said O’Neal is “going to be great” as an analyst. Le Batard: “He’s going to be opinionated. He’s going to kill people. ... He’s going to say things that are going to make you gasp. He’s going to be critical, for sure” (“PTI,” ESPN, 7/14).