|Saturday, June 14
Updated: June 16, 1:43 AM ET
The Incredible Bulk will work with former Marine
ESPN.com news sources
LOS ANGELES -- Who's that 355-pound plus man punishing the pedals of that stair climber, trampling that treadmill, buckling that bicycle?
The Mr. Cardio in question might be Shaquille O'Neal, who according to reports is answering his critics by dedicating this summer to getting into prime shape.
According to the Los Angeles Daily News, O'Neal has begun the process by hiring a personal trainer for the first time since he became a Laker in 1996. Corey Gilday, a Portland, Ore.-based certified fitness trainer and nutritionist, will move to Orlando, Fla., and on June 16 will begin shaping a summer-long training program designed to make the NBA's premier center stronger, healthier and leaner.
It's O'Neal's way of making good on a promise to Lakers' management to improve his off-season conditioning. Traditionally, O'Neal, 31, has prized his offseasons as a time to relax and heal from a season of physical abuse.
This summer, however, the 11-year-veteran has had more time than he's been accustomed to because he and the Lakers had their three-year championship run ended by the San Antonio Spurs. For the first time in four years, O'Neal was not the league's most dominant player this season, nor was his team the league's best.
"Shaquille is a competitor," Perry Rogers, O'Neal's agent, told the Los Angeles Daily News. "With great athletes, you can't turn them off. And his season ended earlier than he wanted it to."
Gilday was the person selected from an extensive list of candidates considered by Rogers and Mike Parris, O'Neal's business manager. Gilday, regarded as one of the top trainers in the nationwide 24-Hour Fitness chain, was chosen from a field of five finalists, the Daily News reports.
O'Neal met with Gilday, a former Marine, for the first time June 12 in Las Vegas, and the two exchanged ideas.
"He was really excited," Parris said.
What does O'Neal hope to accomplish? Parris said the major goals are: "Weight loss, conditioning, he's going to work on his cardio, his leg strength."
In a June 2 meeting, O'Neal promised coach Phil Jackson and general manager Mitch Kupchak to dedicate himself to off-season conditioning. In an interview four days later, the Daily News reports, O'Neal dismissed the issue, saying, "I think the only training I need is players that know their role and players that will give me the (bleeping) ball."
But the Lakers are hoping O'Neal's comment was mostly bravado and that his true intent is to be in the best physical shape. O'Neal was criticized for delaying his toe surgery last summer and for failing to keep himself in prime condition.
"All our guys know that when you lose there's going to be a lot of finger-pointing and a lot of blame, and he has gotten perhaps more than his fair share," Kupchak told the Daily News. "But that's the nature of who he is and what he represents. And some of it, he brought about himself.
"When that happens, everybody accepts the blame, and the only thing to do is look in the mirror and say, 'What do I have to do this summer? What's in my control, and what's my job?' And then we all have to go back and do that. And that applies to our players and our coaches and myself."
O'Neal wants to become stronger and is seeking to drop to any specific weight, his agents say.
"I think in general terms Shaquille would say yes, I want to get leaner and meaner, but not lean and mean," Rogers said.