The Lakers' hiring of Phil Jackson inspired more than a few snide remarks about our piece last week that Los Angeles would never win an NBA title with Shaquille O'Neal at center ("Shaq Trap," June 18). The feeling seemed to be that Jackson's mere presence would make everything all right, that O'Neal would become the team-oriented, dominating player the Lakers would follow to Titleland.
Please. Do not parrot the line that Jackson will be able to get Shaq to play a team game just because he convinced Michael Jordan to give up a bit of himself to play a team game in Chicago. C'mon. Jordan went to a little school called North Carolina. He averaged, like, 17.7 points per game, giving himself for the team, which had a little coach named Dean Smith. No one had to sell Jordan on the team game. He shot like crazy during his first few years in the league because his options were to pass to Craig Hodges. O'Neal spent his college years at Louisiana State University, where he got the ball every time and proceeded to move toward the hoop with all the grace of a bear scratching itself. Sound familiar? How about this? He never won jack. The fact is if O'Neal does not do those things we prescribed last week—make defense and rebounding his primary focus, score less while working within an offensive system that would have him setting up teammates—Jackson or no Jackson, the Lakers won't win.
And Phil agrees. Referring to Wilt Chamberlain, who won championships in offenses where he was the focal point but not the primary option, he said: "It's how good a passer can Shaquille be in this type of situation? How willing will he be to make [his] offense not primary but maybe secondary."
How willing? Well, when asked that on the day of Jackson's hiring, O'Neal said he would afford his new coach all the respect and support he had given his previous coaches. Yoo hoo.
You Go (To Hell), Girl One of the worst things about one of the world's best sporting events, Wimbledon, is that women players are not paid as much prize money as their male counterparts. Forget equality; this is galling because the women's game is not only stocked with more compelling players, but can claim that one of its own is the most despicable person in sports these days. Of course, we're speaking of Martina Hingis, the homophobic, Swiss big mouth who called a lesbian opponent "half a man" and pouted while getting her ass handed to her in the French Open final by German Steffi Graf. (Some believe that Hingis' collapse owed to the fact that, being Swiss, she was torn between pounding the German's backhand or holding her coat.) After that match, Hingis claimed several players told her that she had actually played better than Graf. Yes, if the game you're playing is Kick My Ass Royal on Worldwide Television. Hingis' behavior was so bad that Parisians gave Graf the most enthusiastic reception afforded a German since 1940.