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Shaquille O’Neal recalls David Stern’s great line about ‘Hack-a-Shaq’

Tributes, remembrances and heartfelt statements of praise continue to emerge as the NBA world eulogizes former commissioner David Stern following his passing earlier this month. Among the myriad league legends who have fondly recalled their interactions with the intelligent, compassionate and witty Stern was Shaquille O’Neal.

The Hall of Famer recently shared an amusing story about how the commissioner reacted to his complaints over the much ballyhooed “Hack-a-Shaq” tactics teams employed in an effort to contain his on-court dominance.

The strategy, which evolved beyond simply being used on O’Neal, involved fouling big men down low and forcing them to earn their points at the free-throw line. Shaq understandably hated the ploy, in large part because he was an abysmal free-throw shooter.

In an interview this week with ESPN, O’Neal spun a yarn about how Stern once reacted to his gripes about the “Hack-a-Shaq” strategy and his threats to take business into his own hands to combat it.

“The thing I loved about David Stern was that he was real. So, we go into his office one day because I’m at the end and I’m letting him know ‘Mr. Stern, next time someone Hack-a-Shaqs me, I don’t mind taking 15, 20 games,’” O’Neal said.

“Shaq, you’re over here complaining about fouling? I’ve got 28 teams complaining about you,” Stern replied.

Despite their differences of opinion on “Hack-a-Shaq,” O’Neal and Stern by all accounts enjoyed a collegial professional relationship, as evidenced by the NBA legend’s tweet upon learning the former commissioner had passed away on Jan. 1 at the age of 77 after suffering a brain hemorrhage in early December.

Stern of course presided over one of the most significant eras in NBA history, which set up the league for the worldwide success it continues to enjoy to this day. His continued influence upon the NBA and the admiration and respect he continued to enjoy in the league’s highest circles was on full display at his memorial Tuesday at Radio City Music Hall in New York.