By Jessica Camerato
WALTHAM -- This summer, fans watched Shaquille O'Neal battle Justin Bieber in a dance-off, golf against Charles Barkley, and challenge Joey Chestnut to a hot-dog eating contest on his hit television show, Shaq Vs.
But what people didn't see was ONeal's preparation for his 19th NBA season. Friendly competitions aside, the 38-year-old pushed himself to get ready for basketball. He followed a daily routine to stay in game-shape during the offseason.
"I'd wake up, go to the UFC school for about an hour-and-a-half, come back, eat lunch, take a nap, and then go swimming at night," he told CSNNE.com.
O'Neal trained in mixed martial arts with Jonathan Burke at Gracie Barra Orlando. He has been participating in the program for several years and finds the workouts on the mat help him on the court.
"I did a lot of wrestling stuff because that's the only thing that prepares me for basketball," he said. "I play the wrestling basketball, rather than the running basketball. I can run and jump all day, but I get tired when I have to wrestle against big guys. So wrestling helps me get my stamina."
In the evenings, O'Neal swam 40 laps a night at 24 Hour Fitness in Orlando. This hour-long workout reminds him of the pace of the game.
"Swimming is similar to basketball," he said. "Sprint, sprint, sprint, rest. Sprint, sprint, sprint, rest."
O'Neal is not the only member of the Celtics to follow this type of offseason regimen. Glen Davis also participates in MMA training during the summer in Las Vegas.
Even though the two have yet to test their skills against one another, both are sure they could predict the outcome.
"I could teach him a move or two - armbar, probably kimura, different kinds of positions. I could teach him some kicks," said Davis. "I'd beat him, though. Too seasoned."
Said O'Neal: "Yeah right. He wishes."
Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.comJCameratoNBA.