I originally had plans on covering another piece on LeBron James, Michael Jordan, and the Miami Heat. I planned a long list of Miami bashing, Jordan worshipping, and James scolding. There was going to be some discussion about everything that the Chicago Bulls did right in when they ended the Heat’s streak last week (I rhymed). There was so much to say, and we all know that I was going to go all out in saying it. However, in light of newer, more important stories than the Miami Heat, I would like to turn the attention over to a place known as Las Angeles, California. A beautiful place in its own right, LA is home to some of the most memorable sites in the U.S. For example, there’s the city of Hollywood, an abundance of movie stars and fornication, and Shaq. When it comes to Shaq, there’s so much to be said. How can one person summarize Shaq? If you could describe Shaq in one word, what would it be? If it was me, the word would be big. Yes, Shaq is big in every meaning of the word. However, taking our attention away from the physical aspect, Shaq is big in a sense of humanity, personality, and sheer entertainment. How many people do we as NBA fans know that have at least a handful of memorable Shaq moments stored away in their memory bank. I personally can come up with memories that date back to when I was a kid glued to the front of the TV, completely focused on Shaq as he played one of my favorite characters of all time, Kazaam. Having Shaq in the NBA made the game much more entertaining. How many athletes could go from team to team, incorporating the home city into his nickname? Whether he was the “Big Cactus”, or the “Big Aristotle”, you had no choice but to love Shaq.
Shaquille O’Neal entered the NBA as the number one overall pick in the 1992 NBA draft. In a class that featured big names such as Alonzo Mourning, Doug Christie, Latrell Sprewell, and Robert Horry, this was a big feat in own right. However, Shaq made an impact for the Orlando Magic from day one. Using his larger than life size to assert himself in the paint, Shaq became a nearly unstoppable force that wasn’t seen in the NBA since Wilt Chamberlain did it. Earlier in his career, Shaq used a combination of sheer youthful energy and strength to dominate the post. With the help of the talents of Penny Hardaway, Nick Anderson, Horace Grant, and Dennis Scott, Shaq and the Magic racked havoc on a NBA that featured a Michael Jordan-less Bulls. In 1995, the Magic would go on to make their first NBA finals appearance. Losing to the Rockets in embarrassing fashion, Shaq would find himself on a long road west to Las Angeles. It was with the Lakers where Shaq would make some of his most memorable moments.
Coming to the Lakers in 1996 meant big things for a team that hadn’t seen a NBA finals appearance since 1989, when Magic Johnson and co. led the way. Teaming up with a young Kobe Bryant, as well as the eventual likes of Eddie Jordan, Derek Fisher and Robert Horry, the Shaq led Lakers would go on to in a host of championships from the late 90’s into the early 2000’s, thus making them the first post Bulls dynasty. In this time, Shaq would go on to do things such as get into a fight with Charles Barkley, dunk on a host of embarrassed recipients, and create a shoe phone. Needless to say, every time Shaq was on TV, it was certainly must see.
After the Lakers dynasty came to an end in 2004, Shaq found himself heading back east to join the Miami Heat. It was hear, in 2006, where Shaq would earn his fourth NBA championship, cementing his name amongst the greatest centers of all time. Of course, Shaq wouldn’t stop in Miami making homes in Cleveland, Phoenix, and eventually Boston before his retirement after 19 seasons. Never able to win that fifth championship, Shaq still left the NBA as one of the greatest centers to ever grace our NBA. Not even considering the amount things that Shaq did off the court (movies, music, and a very disrespectful freestyle about Kobe Bryant), Shaq as possibly the best selling entity for the NBA outside of Michael Jordan. However, you view him he was a great, no matter what he did. Therefore, I personally would like to thank Shaq for the entertainment, the talent, and for keeping the NBA must see TV.