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“I’m like President Bush”: Shaquille O’Neal Once Compared Himself to President Incumbent and Brushed Aside Naysayers to Start in All-Star Game

Achyuth Jayagopal

“I’m like President Bush": Shaquille O'Neal Once Compared Himself to President Incumbent and Brushed Aside Naysayers to Start in All-Star Game

The NBA calendar is all serious business except for one weekend of entertainment where the stars literally align – All-Star Weekend. While the three-point contest, dunk contest, and skills challenge also pose intriguing narratives, the attention, of course, is almost solely on the All-Star Game.

Naturally, with it being such an important occasion, the mode of selection comprises fan votes in tandem with selections made by players and the media. While not foolproof, this has been the accepted mode of naming All-Stars over the years.

However, with there being a fan vote element, popularity does tend to swing votes in some instances. Austin Reaves and Derrick Rose getting more fan votes than the likes of De’Aaron Fox and Darius Garland in 2023 are examples of the same.

Shaquille O’Neal was someone who benefitted from this popularity factor during his time in the league. As an entertainer of the highest order, O’Neal was a fan favorite and while he also held his own as the most dominant player in the league, there were instances where the popularity overtook merit. Like in 2007, when Shaq was voted as a starter despite missing a major chunk of the season.

Also read: “Kobe Bryant Got Less MVP Votes Than PJ Brown”: How Shaquille O’Neal Trade Left The Black Mamba Out of MVP Conversation in 2004-05

The Big Diesel compared his inclusion as a voted All-Star starter to George Bush’s presidency.

Shaq isn’t always the most self-aware celebrity, but in this instance, proved otherwise. O’Neal had missed 35 games in the 2006-07 season and helped the Heat snag a Playoff Spot.

However, it was also the first season where O’Neal’s scoring average was below 20 points a game for his career, and there were hints of a decline. The fans, however, seemed to have none of that. O’Neal was elected to be the starting center for the Eastern Conference yet again.

Pundits and media houses certainly took issue with the same. And in the face of criticism, Superman came up with a parallel to George Bush, while defending his place as a starter at the All-Star Game.

“Even though I had been injured for a big chunk of the season, the fans still voted me as the starting center for the 2007 All-Star Game. Some reporters were squawking that I didn’t belong there, but once again I will say it: give the people what they want. They wanted Shaq. They always have. I tried not to get mad about it. When someone asked me how I felt about making the team even though I missed so many games, I told them, “I’m like President Bush. You may not like me, you may not respect me, but you voted me in.”

Democracy cannot be questioned, after all. Bush, the president incumbent, wasn’t the most popular at the time, and O’Neal compared his All-Star selection to that.

Shaquille O’Neal did help the Miami Heat reach the Playoffs, despite criticism.

While Shaq’s All-Star selection may have been scrutinized as a popularity-based selection, his production hadn’t dipped alarmingly. O’Neal may not have been his dominant best, but that was a high bar to go by in the first place.

Superman, despite missing 35 games during which the Heat struggled, helped mount a second-half charge to the Playoffs. O’Neal’s 17 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks went a long way to getting the Heat to the Playoffs.

So, a comparison to George Bush may have been pushing it. But O’Neal made his point clear. The people wanted themselves some Superman loving. They got to have the biggest attraction in the league in the All-Star Game!

Also read: Shaquille O’Neal Took A $30,000,000/Year Pay-Cut To Help Dwyane Wade Win A Championship

About the author

Achyuth Jayagopal

Achyuth Jayagopal

Achyuth Jayagopal is a creative writer with The Sportsrush. After previous freelance dabbles in the industry, Achyuth has authored over 300 pieces for TSR. Having followed the game of basketball for a considerable period, he pledges his allegiance to Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. Beyond speaking his mind on all things basketball, Achyuth is a Sports and Gaming Lawyer who is an ardent Chelsea fan and takes a shine to the culinary world and travelling too.

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