Shaquille O’Neal didn’t stick to the script while interviewing college basketball star DiDi Richards.
On Wednesday the Baylor Lady Bears star guard appeared virtually on TNT’s “Inside The NBA” show to discuss her triumphant NCAA comeback after suffering a spinal cord injury in October which resulted in temporary paralysis.
At one point during the broadcast Richards’ mother, Ungeanetta Richards, poked her head in the camera frame, which caught the attention of the hosts, especially Shaq.
After co-host Candace Parker complimented Richards’ “ageless” look, O’Neal, who divorced from ex-wife Shaunie O’Neal in 2011, saw the moment as an opportunity.
“Hey D-Wade,” O’Neal called to fellow host Dwyane Wade, “I got a new website called ‘damn yo momma fine’.”
Wade just put his head down in laughter. Richards, for her part, clapped her hands in laughter and called O’Neal’s pitch “funny.”
As for Mumma Richards? She exited the frame before the commentary began.
Elsewhere during the conversation, Shaq, on a more serious note, admitted that he didn’t know much about Richards’ story — until Candace Parker filled him in.
Richards was a promising piece of Baylor’s success throughout the 2020-21 season — having won National Defensive Player of the Year the season prior — when a collision with a teammate changed everything.
On October 24, 2020 during a practice scrimmage, Richards dived for a ball at full-speed when she collided with teammate Moon Ursin accidentally. The collision resulted in both players being knocked to floor — but it was Richards who laid on the hardwood “motionless” and “unconscious,” said Alex Olson, Baylor’s athletic director, in a video shared by the Baylor Lady Bears in December.
The incident caused Richards to suffer a non-structural spinal cord injury, according to ESPN, which resulted in temporary paralysis from the hips down — leaving her basketball future in question.
Following a gruelling rehab process — in which Richards told the “Inside The NBA” crew that one day she’d experience success moving her legs and the next her toes would go numb again — she was back with her Lady Bears.
Richards returned to the court just 38 days after she was hospitalised and helped lead her team to a 67-62 victory at South Florida.
She went on to compete in the NCAA women’s March Madness tournament, where the Lady Bears were eliminated by the UConn Huskies in the Elite Eight.