Letter to Shaq After Rookie Year

June 1, 1993

Dear Shaquille,

Congratulations on a great rookie year in the NBA. I was so proud of you and especially in the manner that you conducted yourself.

I shall never forget our first meeting in the mountains of West Germany, when you were only 13 years old. You have grown not only in stature, but in talent, from that day when you were cut from the high school team, when they told you, you were too clumsy and to try soccer.

Now, being constantly in the spotlight, you must be alert to all the pressures it brings. Coach John Wooden knew how to handle fame better than anyone I’ve ever known. He said, “The Coach must recognize that his profession places him in the public eye and he will at times, receive both unjustifiable criticism and underserved praise, and he must not be unduly affected by either.” Live by this creed, Shaquille and you’ll never lose that contagious smile of yours.

Don’t be content. Continue to work on improving your game and as you’ve heard a thousand times over and over again, while playing at LSU: Hard work pays off, and when the going gets rough on the team, remember our HIT philosophy at LSU; play hard, play intelligent, and play together—and everything works out for the best.

Stay away from all distractions because concentration is imperative for ultimate success. It is a supreme art that few ever master.

Be a good listener. One of the most consistent qualities of those that are labeled as extraordinary athletes is they have been coachable. There have been very few exceptions.

Be careful of the parasites who, for selfish motives, want you as their friend. Yes, some will even have visions of the dollar bills floating around. Trust, but never cease to be vigilant. Hold onto that school boy spirit that touched me so strongly when we met eight years ago—a spirit with its natural grace, easy dignity, and the blossoming buds of a genius on a basketball court.

Make your dignity as tall as your body. Never, ever drop it or sell it or become complimented out of it. Respect others, even the most humble, and remember that above all else, you are a member of a group called mankind.

Be a role model. A lot of kids have absolutely no one in whom to turn, and what you do and say will be more than mere words or actions for the game plan that is their life.

Affect mankind. Affect your fellow man, and always for the good. Shaquille, leave a legacy beyond trophies and statistics because, and I hate to say this but, your time will also pass and the glory you enjoy will only be a memory.

So, be your brother’s keeper. Lift him up when he has fallen; bandage him up when he is wounded.

In body, he may not be as big as you, but in spirit, he is.

Well, that’s my advice to you, Shaquille. You really don’t need it. You are what you are: a good man, full of love.

Love you,
Coach Brown

Dale Brown and Shaq at his retirement press conference (Photo Credit: USA Today)


Coach Dale Brown is the only SEC coach to have appeared in 15 straight national tournaments and is the second winningest coach in SEC history surpassed only by Kentucky’s legendary Adolph Rupp. 105 of 160 of Brown’s players received their college degrees.

Since Coach Dale Brown’s retirement from LSU in 1997, he has become and author of several books, a national motivational speaker, a basketball analyst for Fox Sports Radio and the creator of a syndicated radio program Motivational Moments on National Public Radio. His television credits include college basketball analyst for ESPN and ABC Sports on the Road To The Final Four. He has also made numerous appearances on ESP’s Cold Pizza, Fox’s Best Damn Sports Show, and CBS Sports. He has been a consultant /expert on the ABC series Shaq’s Big Challenge and an advisor to Matthew McConaughey who played the role of a coach in the movie “We Are Marshall.”

He is currently CEO of Dale Brown Enterprises and the Dale Brown Foundation. He also serves on the boards of the United States Basketball Academy and Boys and Girls Town of Louisiana and a charter member of the Master Basketball Coaches.

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