In the wake of Erin Popovich passing away, the NBA on TNT crew spent a good portion of time talking about the Popovich family. San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is one of the most respected people in sports and every reaction was heartfelt, including LeBron James’ during the much-discussed post-game interview with Allie LaForce.
Shaquille O’Neal took the opportunity, though, to tell a great story about why he disrespected Gregg Popovich. Or more accurately, why he only did it once, thanks to an intervention from his step-father:
One time me and Pop had a little altercation, and you know my father’s a military man (like Popovich), and he called me right away and said don’t you ever disrespect Pop again. He told me a story, story goes like this: I was in San Antonio in 1989, couldn’t afford a pair of 18/19 shoes. My father drove over to the Spurs, him and Pop hit it off right away, Pop gave him a couple pairs of shoes, my father brought them back to the house.
Shaq was referring to his high school days in San Antonio, which overlapped with Pop’s first stint with the Spurs in the late 1980s. That was basically 30 years ago, and Pop was still doing awesome things like getting NBA-sized shoes for a high school kid who clearly needed them. It’s funny how the very best people also tend to be the most humble.
It was also a nice revealing moment for Shaq, who certainly didn’t have to tell that story. We’re glad he did, though.