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Shaq at the Spelling Bee

(By Jacquelyn Martin - AP)

So at the end of Friday afternoon's Scripps National Spelling Bee session -- with controversy swirling -- Shaquille O'Neal entered the Independence Ballroom at the Grand Hyatt to much applause. He took the stage, and, after some pitter-patter, announced that he was challenging last year's winner, Kavya Shivashankar, to a spell-off. He also said that the 10 remaining contestants, plus Shivashankar's adorable little sister, would be his coaches.

"I've got my bachelor's degree and my masters degree," he told the audience and spellers. "If you don't believe me, kitten, K-I-T-T-E-N," he continued. "Do you accept my challenge?"

Shivashankar emerged, and engaged in some sort of obviously scripted dialog with Shaq. Jimmy Kimmel's name was mentioned at least twice. Before Shaq left, he stared her down.

"Showing my poker face," he said. "Are we allowed to do that judges, is that ok? Can we give them a poker face?...I'll be ready. And since I'm an older gentleman, I get to miss at least two words, is that ok with you, deal?"

Everyone swarmed for photos. And then they all returned around 3 p.m. to tape the Shaq bit, for which media members were asked to leave.

I did get to see Shaq leaving the ballroom later in the afternoon. There were a lot of photos with little kids and awkward dads. One little kid in a yarmulke yarmulkah slapped five with Shaq.

"Shalom, brother," O'Neal said.

Ah, spelling.

By Dan Steinberg  |  June 4, 2010; 4:29 PM ET
Categories:  Weirdness  
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I would have paid a lot to have Shaq say Shalom brother to me. Awesome. Man is an entertainer

Posted by: JDP_ | June 4, 2010 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Huh... so at this point, is Shaq better at competitive spelling or at basketball?

Posted by: NateinthePDX | June 4, 2010 7:37 PM | Report abuse

If Shaq doesn't "win"and gets words harder than K-I-T-T-E-N, can we expect to see an article from Wilbon about the inherent racism of spelling bees?

Posted by: caps1974 | June 5, 2010 7:11 AM | Report abuse

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