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Shaq: Went easy in practice to save energy for games

Los Angeles Lakers' center Shaquille O'Neal (L) la

LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES: Los Angeles Lakers’ center Shaquille O’Neal (L) laughs with guard Kobe Bryant in the fourth quarter during the Lakers’ 86-73 win against the Chicago Bulls, in Los Angeles, CA, 22 November 2002. O’Neal had surgery on his arthritic right big toe 11 September 2002 and is playing for the first time this season. AFP PHOTO/Lucy NICHOLSON (Photo credit should read LUCY NICHOLSON/AFP/Getty Images)

AFP/Getty Images

It was one of Kobe Bryant’s big beefs with Shaquille O’Neal — Shaq didn’t go hard in practices, didn’t work hard in the offseason to prepare himself. Kobe’s work ethic is legendary (Phil Jackson said better than Jordan’s) while Shaq pretty much just rolled out there and dominated.

That was by design, according to Shaq. He was channeling Allen Iverson.

Shaq did an interview for “In Depth with Graham Bensinger” that gets released this weekend where he talked about his notoriously soft practice habits.

“In the words of Allen Iverson, ‘We talking about practice?’ Did I work hard in practice? No. Never. And let me tell you why. The guy that I’m playing against, they’re under me. So to try and show that they’re worthy of being an NBA player, they would touch me up. So it was my philosophy... I’m not gonna get touched up twice. I’m not gonna get beat up at practice and in the game. So I will chill in practice and I’ll give you all in the game.”

While he was on a roll, Shaq also said he used to tweak Kobe just to motivate him.

“I had to figure out a way to get him to perform at a high level. And I realized that we were the same people – we don’t like criticism and we turn it into motivation… [Kobe] was a guy that I know if I talk smack, he’s going to come out and try and score 50. I think it worked perfectly.”

Well, maybe not perfectly, but the duo did rack up some rings. But I find it hard to believe this was all Shaq going Phil Jackson/master motivator.

Check out the full interview when it comes out, there are other vintage, no-filter Shaq comments as well.