This post is from guest blogger Tavis J. Hampton, a wannabe sports reporter for All Blogs Considered and also writes for the best server hosting company on the planet, 34SP.com. In his spare time, Tavis enjoys watching his home team Indiana Pacers lose.
He led one team to three NBA titles and helped Dwayne Wade lead another to one. He was MVP of the NBA Finals three times, and his 28,596 points rank him fifth all time behind NBA legends Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan, and Wilt Chamberlain. The stats alone show that Shaquille O’Neal will go down in history as one of the greats, but the stats do not tell the whole story.
To understand how dominant Shaq was on the court and how entertaining he was off the court, you had to watch him, study his moves, and listen to him crack jokes. There have only been a few players over the years who have been classified as unstoppable, and even fewer were able to maintain that classification consistently and for as long as Shaquille O’Neal.
To understand “Shaqness”, you first need to understand just how awesomely huge this man is. Plenty of centers were tall, and some were even big, but Shaq is 7”1’ and over 300lbs. People his size are normally pretty immobile, but Shaq was agile, probably not classified as graceful, but undeniably in control of his body and anyone else on the court who got in his way.
In his early years with the Orlando Magic, he immediately made his presence felt by breaking down backboards and even pulling down an entire goal after a dunk. He snapped the entire backboard like a twig and quickly moved out of the way as the whole structure fell to the floor.
The standard defensive protocol with a big man is to put another big body on him, but none were big enough, strong enough, or skilled enough to defend Shaquille O’Neal. As a result, in several seasons of his career he averaged close to 30 points per game, over ten rebounds and at least two blocked shots.
Off the court, Shaq was known for dropping “Random acts of Shaqness”, inventing his own words, joking with his teammates and commentators, pretending no to know who Kobe Bryant was, and even launching a hip-hop side job. In music videos, movies, and interviews, O’Neal’s charisma, unmistakable heavy monotone voice, and jolly sense of humor were always present.
More than just a dominant player, Shaquille O’Neal was an entertainer, and fans all over the world loved him. He served as an ambassador, introducing the game of basketball to people who may not have ever cared about it. His influence and power to bring across a positive message was phenomenal, and that will undoubtedly continue long after his retirement.
Now that his 19-year career has ended, it will be left to the critics, commentators, other players, and fans to decide where Shaquille O’Neal ranks among the all-time greats. For his position, he was easily the most dominant to ever play center, and the statistics indicate he was one of the most productive. While he was not the guy you would want at the free throw line in a clutch situation, he was an immovable force in the paint on offense and defense.
At the end of his career, Shaquille O’Neal had played for six teams, winning three NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers and one with the Miami Heat. He won 3 finals MVP awards, one NBA MVP, NBA Rookie of the Year, 15 NBA All-Star appearances, 2 scoring titles, 8 All-NBA First Team awards, 3 All-Defensive Team awards, and 3 All-Star MVP awards.
Shaquille O’Neal’s retirement marks the end of an era: the era of the true big man. NBA teams still have centers, but aside from Dwight Howard, there are few true back-to-the-basket centers left in the game and none as dominant and explosive as O’Neal. When Shaq came into the league, there was stiff competition at the center position with greats like Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, and Alonzo Mourning. Shaq battled them all and lived to tell about it. As Shaquille O’Neal leaves the game, the style of basketball that made him great may unfortunately leave with him.
Is Shaq the greatest of all time? For many he will be remembered as that, and for everyone else, he will still be remembered. Shaquille O’Neal was so many positive things to the game of basketball and will continue to be someone people tune in to watch, regardless of what he does with his millions of dollars and free time. As one YouTube commenter put it best, “Like his free throws, Shaq will be badly missed.”