After Tom Brady and the 2015 Super Bowl champion, New England Patriots were punished in their “Deflate Gate” scandal, the topic of deflating balls has been nationally covered for quite some time now. However, it turns out deflating balls is more common than people realize and not just in football.
According to ESPN.com’s Baxter Holmes, four-time champion Shaquille O’Neal freely admitted that he used to let the air out of basketballs prior to games during his championship runs to make the ball more comfortable for him:
“Sometimes, in the games during all my championship runs, if a ball was too hard, I let the air out,” the former All-Star center said in a recent episode of “The Big Podcast With Shaq.” “I’d have a needle. A friend of mine would have a needle and I would get the game ball…. I needed that extra grip, but I wasn’t doing that for cheating purposes. I just needed the extra grip for m hands so I could palm it, a la Michael Jordan, the way he used to palm it.”
Although admitting to deflating balls, O’Neal believes he didn’t do it for malicious reasons and never tried to get an edge over the competition. When asked, he believes he wasn’t cheating:
“Because, first of all, I’m not aware of any letter of the law that says, you can’t let air out of the ball, O’Neal said. “I’m not aware of that. Second of all, it’s all about my [comfort level]. A lot of times, if the balls have too much air in them, they’re too bouncy. I didn’t want them to be bouncy. I needed that grip.”
O’Neal openly chose to talk about the issue since it’s been an around-the-clock coverage in more notably the NFL, than the NBA. However, questions may come up on whether or not deflating basketballs would have a drastic effect on balls coming off rebounds and getting a ‘shooter’s bounce,’ especially for O’Neal who averaged a discouraging 52.9 percent from the free-throw line during the Lakers championship run from 2000-02.[divide]