Updated Nov 1, 2012 11:49 AM ET
Let’s hope Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley talk some sense into Shaquille O’Neal. Let’s hope the legendary NBA center gracefully, promptly and humbly rescinds his challenge for physical combat with yours truly.
Given the propensity of former professional athletes to file for bankruptcy, I would take little pleasure in one of my 20 favorite athletes of all time writing a check his butt can’t cash.
Normally my reputation in matters such as these precludes professional jocks from selling the kind of wolf tickets Shaq sold on Tuesday’s debut episode of my favorite TV show — TNT’s “Inside the NBA.”
“Jason Whitlock, I tell you what: You can come down here and box me any time you want,” O’Neal bluffed after Johnson read my tweet that pointed out Shaq would lose a Shirt-off rematch to Barkley because Shaq opened another NBA season out of shape. “I’ll use one hand. You use two. I’ll get on my knees. Any time, any place. You don’t know who you’re talking to, boy.”
It’s my hope that before TNT’s next NBA broadcast, Shaq does the proper homework on me. If he does, he’ll learn the fates of Lawrence Taylor, Andre Rison, Keyshawn Johnson and countless other high-profile foolish jocks who have taken offense at my journalistic work and either threatened violence or personally confronted me.
I ain’t to be trifled with, Shaq.
Most athletes know this. They’ve done their due diligence. They recognize that beneath the extra five-to-10 pounds I carry on my otherwise chiseled frame, I’m still an elite athlete, the same weapon of mass destruction that made me a dominant force in college football in the 1980s and Mel Kiper’s sleeper prospect before the 1990 NFL Draft.
I hope that Barkley explains all of this to Shaq. Years ago, I had a similar problem with Charles. He was upset with me when I coined the nickname “Charles-enio Barkley,” a moniker that lampooned Chuck’s second-banana, Eddie Murphy-Arsenio Hall-like relationship with Michael Jordan.
Chuck wanted to beef with me. A mutual friend, Jay Glazer, explained to Chuck that people in the UFC world viewed me as the original and authentic Kimbo Slice, and Barkley quickly made peace. We’ve been friends ever since.
Look, I’m not the type to brag about my physical exploits. But my record in these encounters speaks for itself. I’ll knock Shaq to his knees and he’ll leave the ring on the same stretcher as Keyshawn, Rison and LT.
In fact, Shaq would be easier to whip. Throwing hands is not his area of expertise. We’ve all seen the infamous video of Barkley bouncing a ball off Shaq’s head and then dumping Shaq on his behind. Barkley gave Shaq a “free throw,” and, not surprisingly, Shaq’s left hand missed wildly.
I like Shaq. He’s a teddy bear, a gentle giant. He’s an eater not a fighter.
Kobe ran Shaq out of Los Angeles. It makes no sense for Shaq to challenge a football gladiator such as myself. Again, I hope Shaq comes to his senses and checks my references. As of Thursday morning, 56 percent of independent voters in an LA Times poll predicted I would spank Shaq in a boxing match.
Now, the guys at TNT had a little fun with an old, outdated picture of me taking a nap on a couch after a vigorous workout. Because of the camera angle, it appeared I was 10-to-15 pounds out of shape. Trust me, I’m as physically fit as most elite-level bodybuilders.
Given my superior conditioning and the fact I haven’t taken my shirt off with the lights on since the mid-1990s, it would be unfair for me to challenge Shaq to a Shirt-off contest. Shaq is clearly out of shape, and there’s no reason for me to embarrass him on national TV by revealing my six-pack abs and perfectly sculpted chest and shoulders. Shaq knows this. And that’s why he smartly didn’t challenge me to a Shirt-off contest.
So let’s level the playing field. I challenge Shaq to a Shoes-and-Socks-off contest. I’ve always been told I have very flattering size-12 feet. Shaq’s surgically repaired, size-22 feet would provide quite a contrast. Maybe Rex Ryan and his wife could be celebrity judges.
Is Shaq man enough to show his feet on national TV?
I am. Any time, any place.