Cover Image for Former Lakers athletic trainer Garry Witti gives first-hand account of why 7-foot Shaquille O’Neal didn’t achieve GOAT status

Former Lakers athletic trainer Garry Witti gives first-hand account of why 7-foot Shaquille O’Neal didn’t achieve GOAT status

Arjun Julka
|Wed Aug 10 2022

Former athletic trainer for the LA Lakers, Gary Vitti, reveals how Shaquille O’Neal missed the mark of being the GOAT.

When we speak of athletes defying the laws of genetics, Shaquille O’Neal, sits right at the top. Standing above seven-feet tall, the Big Diesel moved with finesse and had cat-like reflexes in the paint. The Lakers legend had unmatched dominance in the paint, shattering backboards regularly.

Shaq had opponents beat with his mere presence on the court, having intimidated the likes of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. The fifteen-time All-Star was a nightmare for the rims, courtesy of his ability to dunk. Nonetheless, many believe the Diesel’s prime could have sustained much longer.

It won’t be wrong to say that Shaq enjoyed most of his success donning the purple and gold alongside Kobe Bryant. The legendary duo’s iconic run included a 3-peat, with the Diesel being Finals MVP each time. Unfortunately, their partnership ended before expected.

Also read: Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant’s three-peat wouldn’t be possible if $20 million man didn’t ‘throw a towel’

At the time, the narrative suggested Shaq taking a backseat post winning 3-chips, leading to him clashing with Kobe regularly. The Big Aristotle’s lack of discipline and competitive drive robbed him of being the GOAT.

Former Lakers trainer Garry Vitti reveals why Shaquille O’Neal didn’t reach GOAT status.

One of the most known athletic trainers in the business, Vitti served the LA Lakers for 32 years. The veteran was part of 8-titles and 12 finals over a 3-decade+ long stint in LA. Vitti served the Lakers from The Showtime era till the Black Mamba’s retirement in 2016.

Thus Vritti has the experience of training some of the greatest to wear the purple and gold, including one such being Shaquille O’Neal. According to the veteran, the Diesel was a dream client for every trainer. Nevertheless, the former Lakers center never really had the gym rat image.

During a 2019 interview with Fair Game’s Kristine Leahy, Vritti narrated his personal experience of working with the Big Diesel.

“My dream for Shaq was for him to be the best of all time, said Vritti.”

“That wasn’t his dream. That’s a problem. When you want something for someone more than they want it for themselves. But Shaq’s dream was to inspire young people to follow their dreams at being whatever it is that they want to be. And he has done that. He is the best, I love him. As much as I thought he underachieved on the court, and he was a great achiever, we won three rings, he was the MVP of the Finals.”

When asked if he (Shaq) could have even been better, Vritti said the following.

“He could have been the greatest of all time.”

Talking about the notion that the Lakers legend didn’t need to work that hard, given nobody was even close to him, Vritti added.

“That’s part of it. The other part of it is the position that he played. And I say this in the book, that it’s really hard for big men. Especially in the days of the dominant center playing in the low post with your back to the basket. The game’s changed now, we don’t see that anymore.”

“But you take a little guy and you put him in the gym with a basketball and a hoop, he’ll be a gym rat. He’ll stay there all day, he’ll make believe he’s Kobe Bryant in his head taking last-second shots. He’ll work on his skills and all that. What’s a big guy gonna do? He’s gonna stand under the basket and do the Mikan drill. Left hand, right hand, left hand, right hand, it’s boring.”

Vritti’s view was very similar to that of the late Kobe Bryant, who also believed they could have won 8-10 rings together, with Shaq emerging as the GOAT.

Also read: Shaquille O’Neal’s insane 10 drink, Roscoe’s chicken and waffles are the reason why he weighs 350 lbs  



About the author
Arjun Julka

Arjun Julka

A 26-year-old from Mumbai. A huge Basketball fan who regularly consumes hours of basketball content, be it matches, debates, or analysis. Some of my other interests include CrossFit, watching documentaries, collecting sneakers, and trying out different types of cuisines.

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