This is from the June issue of Reader’s Digest, which I think you can find in that wicker basket next to your grandma’s chair.


And this is from the August issue of Reader’s Digest, which your grandmother is reading right now.

Put those two things together and you’ve got a classic philosopher mix-up. Steve Aschburner of explains:

In its June issue, a quote attributed to O’Neal (“Excellence is not a singular act, but a habit. You are what you repeatedly do”) ran next to a slick illustration of the big fella. It’s been out there, associated with O’Neal, for more than a dozen years. In fact, it was the source of the “Big Aristotle” moniker in the first place. “[That] was coined the day I won the MVP [in 2000],” O’Neal long ago explained. “I stole a quote from that Greek philosopher cat.”

Actually, O’Neal flipped around the phrases in Aristotle’s original deep thought, but hey, close enough.

The editors at the Digest never got the memo. But some readers did notice. Eventually, so did media watchdog Jim Romenesko, the proprietor of his eponymous and much-visited Web site. By that time at least, Reader’s Digest had come clean after learning of the confusion.

You know, just one of those accidental screw-ups where you take the famous words of one of history’s most well-known philosophers, then attribute them to a basketball player with a knack for quotes. It’s happened to all of us, like that time when Sports Illustrated ran that cover of JaVale McGee climbing to the top of a mountain accompanied by his quote, “I think therefore I am.” It’s an easy mistake to make.

Then again, if Shaq is going to be mistaken for for any of his various nickname identities, “The Big Aristotle” is probably the most flattering. Well, unless he can somehow get a real black belt out of being called “Shaq Fu.” A black belt trumps pretty much anything.