., Shaquille O'Neal
, the 17-year NBA icon, mixed friendly smack-talk and humble sentiments at the opportunity to face Albert Pujols
in a home run derby Thursday afternoon in O'Fallon, Missouri.
"St. Louis, Michigan, how are you?" O'Neal joked after sitting down at the conference table, positioned on the shadeless rooftop of the Four Seasons hotel downtown.
O'Neal said he felt like a "kid in a candy store" at the chance to take
on Pujols, but didn't short-change himself, saying that if he lost to
Pujols, he'd don a pink Speedo and run the bases (though it was unclear
whether it would be the bases of Busch Stadium or T.R. Hughes Ballpark,
where the contest will be held.)
While the four-time NBA champion took in his first full baseball game last night at Busch
he made a few passing references to being a Tee-Ball All-Star, and dubbed
himself "Shaqie Robinson" as a hitter and the "Big Black Unit" as a
pitcher. Pujols admitted to being a point-guard in high school but that
he could no longer dunk.
Pujols also took questions, and
diplomatically dodged one about who threw a better first pitch,
President Barack Obama during the All-Star Game, or Shaq on Tuesday night -- until O'Neal confidently chimed in, "I'm better."
St. Louis Cardinals coach Dave McKay
will throw the pitches to
both players during the contest, in which O'Neal will have a handicap
of a smaller outfield than Pujols. However, O'Neal's bat, an aluminum
one, weighs in at 37 ounces, while Pujols' standard is 34.5 ounces.
hour-long series premieres at 9 p.m. CST August 18 on ABC. O'Neal has
also faced off against Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps and Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, adding,
"[Pujols] isn't scared like [LA Galaxy player] David Beckham. He accepted my challenge."
To hype his upcoming reality show