Talking to a man of Shaquille O’Neal’s stature is not a wise decision. This is even more debatable for a young center during his second season in NBA. Greg Ostertag nevertheless tried the Diesel.
Ostertag and Jazz had Shaq and the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1990s. However, the Dallas native’s efforts to make fun of O’Neal proved costly.
Greg Ostertag was still quite green when he and Utah Jazz met Shaquille O’Neal and the Lakers in the semi-finals of the 1997 West Conference.
The Jazz picked Ostertag with the 28th choice in the 1995 NBA draft.
He played 57 games in his rookie season and appeared as the guy in the middle of his second campaign; he started in 70 of his 77 appearances during the 1996-97 season.
However, in spite of the added initial experience, Ostertag was about to face a completely different challenge in Shaq.
This was his first season with the Lakers in 1996-97. He averaged 26.2 points, 12.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 2.9 blocks in his debut with the Purple and Gold, though injuries limited him to just 51 games.
A healthy Shaq dominated the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round with an average of 33.0 points and helped LA win four games. Unfortunately, he has yet to be so successful against Jazz. Ostertag and the Jazz held him to 22.0 points on under 50% shooting from the floor. O’Neal has completely removed Ostertag from the proceedings, but the center of Utah has done enough to downsize Shaq’s offensive production.
Ostertag was feeling great too. He had words for O’Neal throughout the series as the Jazz rolled through their four-game series and eventually reached the NBA finals. The trash-talk was stressed insistently by Ostertag’s nine blocks in game 5. Superman didn’t forget Ostertag’s barbs. Instead, he actively searched for it during the following preseason.
“Throughout the summer, O’Neal replayed the Utah games in his mind. More than that, he replayed Ostertag’a mannerisms and boastfulness in his mind. When the Jazz won, the center through O’Neal’s prism—behaved like a conquering hero. He was the Shaq slayer. The man who derailed Shaq Diesel. ‘Nobody thinks I’ve done anything all year, especially Shaq,’ Ostertag said after the series triumph. ‘But I guess that’a why he’s playing golf right now and I’m in the Western Conference finals.’”
The following preseason the Los Angeles Lakers were scheduled to take on the Jazz in their first preseason game during the 97-98 season, and in his documentary with HBO [Shaq], Shaq revealed why he slapped Ostertag.
Apparently Ostertag was interviewed before the Jazz were to take on the Lakers and was quoted saying Shaq was underrated and not all that.
“So, the first preseason game in Utah, he is talking in an article. Shaq [ain’t] all that, [he’s] overrated. Those words I’ll punch you in your face for… I said, hey man, old Greg, I have kids now watch what you say in an article. He said, man f*** you… You heard me f*** you. Laid him out.”
After slapping Ostertag, the future Hall of Famer was fined $10,000 and was given a one-game suspension.