The Cleveland Cavaliers center spent the offseason filming his reality show "Shaq Vs.," in which he competed against various top athletes in their sports. He traded punches with Oscar De La Hoya, intercepted Ben Roethlisberger passes and, yes, even swam against Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps.
It was fun for O'Neal, but it also helped keep him in shape.
"I kind of liked it because when he was with Michael Phelps," Brown said, "I knew he wasn't going to walk out in a Speedo looking like me."
Brown, LeBron James and the rest of the Cavaliers have been impressed by O'Neal's conditioning through the first few days of camp. At 37, the 325-pound center looks trim and is moving well.
"He's in really good shape," James said.
O'Neal is coming off one of the longest offseasons of his career. While playing in Phoenix last year, he missed the playoffs for the first time since 1993 when he was a rookie in Orlando. He took two weeks off after the season and then spent the rest of the summer playing baseball, football, beach volleyball, boxing and swimming.
"It was different," O'Neal said. "When you do this for so long, everything else gets tiresome. How many times can you go do the stairmaster, the treadmill or the elliptical? You do that twice a day, stuff gets boring. I wanted to mix it up."
O'Neal said he'll write a book in a few years and will call it "The Myth of the Elite Athlete."
"My formula has always been something that has worked for me," he said. "There are a lot of so-called experts that say what you're supposed to do. I usually take a big beating during the season, so the summertime is a time for me to get some rest."
With 7-foot center Zydrunas Ilgauskas still on Cleveland's roster, the Cavaliers have the luxury of resting O'Neal at times this season. He does not have to play both games on back-to-back nights, nor will he be expected to log 35 minutes every game.
Brown served as an assistant under Gregg Popovich when San Antonio won a championship with Tim Duncan and an aging David Robinson. Brown watched how Popovich allowed Robinson to sit out games and practices throughout the season and plans to do the same with O'Neal.
"I don't think guys need to practice every day, every minute and play in every single game all the time," Brown said. "If guys are bringing it when they're dressed, I have to make sure I do my part and understand there are times when those guys need a break. This is a long season and to play every single game and practice every minute at a high level is tough on anybody."
O'Neal and James are still learning how to play together, but O'Neal has already been impressed with one of James' traits: His sense of humor.
"Usually I'm the guy making everyone laugh, but he's making me laugh," O'Neal said. "He's a humble guy, a funny guy. He deserves all the accolades he gets. I'm looking forward to making him better."