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Why Shaq described UVU head basketball coach Mark Madsen as ‘the purest guy I’ve ever met in the NBA’

“It was my duty to protect him” — Shaquille O’Neal.

SHARE Why Shaq described UVU head basketball coach Mark Madsen as ‘the purest guy I’ve ever met in the NBA’
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In this file photo, Shaquille O’Neal and Mark Madsen of the Los Angeles Lakers speak during an NBA game against the Miami Heat at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif.

Matt A. Brown, Associated Press

For years now, Utah Valley University’s new head basketball coach Mark Madsen has been most known for one thing — his dancing ability.

Monday afternoon, Madsen’s former Los Angeles Lakers teammate Shaquille O’Neal may have changed all that.

In an interview with Kristine Leahy, the host of Fair Game on FS1, O’Neal detailed his relationship with Madsen when the Stanford graduate was an NBA rookie in 2000.

In the sit down interview, Shaq described Madsen as “the purest NBA guy I’ve ever met,” with O’Neal feeling a personal responsibility to watch out for him.

“I had to protect that,” he said. 

O’Neal admitted to knowing little about Madsen’s Latter-day Saint faith, but admired his convictions, and went out of his way to prevent Madsen’s Laker teammates from putting him in any position he may have been uncomfortable in.

“I was the one who said, ‘Nah. Mark ain’t doin’ that,” O’Neal said. “Mark is not doing that at all. Stay away from him, don’t invite him out, don’t bring certain people around him. Don’t do any of that, ‘cause he told me, ‘Shaq I don’t do that. I don’t do any of that.’ It was awesome to hear. I had never heard anything like that before.”

In an effort to keep Madsen “cool,” and a part of the team, O’Neal took Madsen suit shopping and car shopping, even paying the down payment on Madsen’s first NBA vehicle.

“He is the purest guy I ever met in the NBA,” said O’Neal. “This kid never makes mistakes. He is a great guy and I felt it was my duty to protect him.”

Watch the entire interview here.