It wasn’t done in any formal press conference; it wasn’t done at a team facility, hell it wasn’t even done in front of the media.
Just Shaq, again doing things his way, sending out a message on Twitter, getting the internet buzzing about the fact that after 19 years of pure entertainment and a streak of dominance that will probably never be matched again, he was done with basketball.
A lot of people have said a lot of things about his retirement, they have lamented his abilities, his exploits, his fantastic quotes and yet I don’t really care about any of that.
No, what I care about is the fact that I felt cheated by Shaq, but not for the reasons many other people do.
When he came into the NBA with the Orlando Magic he was a man amongst boys: Bigger, stronger, agile enough to do things on the court that we had never seen before.
He couldn’t make a shot from beyond 8 feet, but neither could Moses Malone.
He couldn’t shoot free throws, but neither could Wilt Chamberlain.
He had fantastic footwork, but never developed a steady diet of post moves to go with that footwork.
Yes he won four titles, but from the time Jordan retired till Lebron was drafted (when Tim Duncan and Kobe battled for that title) he was the best player in the world… supposedly. Yet it took Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson coming aboard before he sniffed the NBA Finals with the Lakers? Something just doesn’t add up, that’s what some people will say.
You look at all of the gaudy stats he put up through his career and some things stick out at you for all of the wrong reasons.
Never won a rebounding title? Really?
Well let’s look at the guys who did while Shaq was at his youngest and most athletic:
Dennis Rodman: 91-98
Rodman played basketball for three reasons: Play suffocating defense, grab rebounds, bang as many chicks as he could. He succeeded in all three without much competition in the last two.
Chris Webber: 98-99
Really Chris Webber grabbed more boards in a strike shortened season than you did Shaq? You didn’t even have to pace yourself, if you played all the games and made it to the finals it still wouldn’t have been a normal NBA season.
So from the time Shaq came into the league til he started on his decline he should have only won a single rebounding title, because no one was beating Rodman during that stretch, he was on teams specifically to rebound, he lived for rebounding and got some kind of weird joy out of it.
The Chris Webber season is kind of indefensible for Shaq even I will admit that, but was grabbing rebounds really Shaq’s importance to the team?
I mean Tim Duncan is considered a great rebounder and he has exactly the same number of rebounding titles as Shaq does.
Look at it like this, Shaq is 27th in rebounds per game in NBA history, if you take out all pre-expansion players he moves up to around 13 or 14 all time… is that really terrible to be behind guys like Kareem, Barkley, and Rodman?
So we can get on Shaq for not rebounding better, but to me he rebounded just fine for when he came along, and seemed to always rise to the occasion in big games.
Then there is the free throw thing. I don’t feel I need to defend this because you are right, it is indefensible. He was abysmal at shooting free throws and it spawned the beginning of the Hack-a-Shaq, which was one of the most cowardly, yet brilliant basketball acts ever hatched.
If your opponent sucks at something you exploit it as much as possible.
So if you really want to bitch about Shaq that is a great thing to bitch about. Yet I still don’t really care about that.
No, what I feel cheated about from Shaq was that he never felt like the game was the most important aspect of his life.
Then I started to think back to the memories I had of Shaq. When he came into the league and started destroying people game by game.
When he seemed to shrink from big moments in his younger years, you know like Lebron James supposedly did.
When he seemed like he would never put his immense physical talents together and be the player we all wanted him to be.
Except he was what we wanted him to be at the time.
He was a breath of fresh air from the over competitive, maniacal Jordan era.
He was like Charles Barkely, except bigger, better and more entertaining.
He dominated the NBA for a four year stretch like no one in the modern NBA has since Jordan.
From 1998-99 through 01-02 there were none that could approach him from dominance stand point, yet it didn’t change who he was in an interview or off the court.
He was still larger than life, the brightest star amongst a league full of stars and the most entertaining act in the NBA, except he was now also the best player in the game, and there wasn’t even a debate about it.
I have found that most people wanted Shaq to be that player for his entire career, to be the most dominant force in the NBA, and to leave no doubt in anyone’s mind about who was the alpha dog of the league.
Except they forget what the repercussion of that might have been.
He wasn’t Jordan or Kobe, looking for anything that could be considered a slight to give them that motivation to take their game to the next level and kill themselves.
He wasn’t going to change who he was as a person to become more as a player. Was that selfish? Was the lazy? Was that cheating us? Maybe to Shaq the player, but Shaq the entertainer is what we will remember about him.
When Jordan left the game people weren’t devastated because the best player in the league was leaving, no they were devastated because the best entertainer in the game was gone.
When Kobe leaves, we will miss his talents immensely, but he was never the brightest star in the game, even when he was the best player.
No Shaq’s legacy has as much to do with those 4 titles and 28,000+ pts as it does with what he did off the court.
Whenever Shaq talked, everyone listened. Whenever Shaq played everyone watched. He was the most dominant player physically that I had the privilege of seeing in person.
So I had to bring in an expert that could really help us out with where to rank Shaq in an All-Time sense, so I turn to my dad, yep the old man is going to make a guest appearance on TSHQ for Father’s Day, and give us his thoughts on Shaq’s legacy and how it stacks up to the big men he was able to witness.
Here’s my take on where Shaquille rates in comparison to the great centers I saw play. I’ve limited my comparison list to 5 guys. I didn’t get to see Bill Russell in his prime but did see him play towards the end of his career. I excluded him for that reason,
I would list the centers in this order with a couple of thoughts on each.
1. Wilt Chamberlain: I don’t recall any of his time in Philly but do vividly remember watching him play with the Lakers. Maybe because they kicked the Suns butts every year. I got to see him play in person several times and remember thinking what an awesome athlete he was. He really focused on defense after he got to L.A but could score whenever he wanted. Guys couldn’t move him off the block. He was the most dominate rebounder and shot blocker I’ve ever seen. Even at an older age he could still outrun and out jump most of the guys in the NBA. He also was an incredible passer. I looked at his career stats to just make my memory wasn’t going on me but he averaged almost 4.5 assist per game and even playing with Jerry West he still averaged over 4 apg. Most importantly he was the single most intimidating figures I’ve ever seen. He was very focused and didn’t take crap from anyone. He had the misfortune of playing during a time when the Celtics were the most dominate team in the world.
2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Can’t believe that I’m putting him in this spot. Lousy coin flip probably cost the Suns two or three Championships. With that said I’d rate him second simply because he had the most unstoppable shot ever. Guys simply couldn’t stop his sky-hook and couldn’t keep off the block. Not overly strong but very difficult to keep out of the post. Early in his career did a great job of finding the open man. Never a dominate rebounder but did a good job. He was the perfect fit for the Lakers Showtime. When the fast break wasn’t there they could throw it into Kareem and make their cuts to the basket. I think he and Magic made James Worthy a top 50 player. He was a very underrated defender. Really good one-on-one defender but also had the length as a help defender to alter lots of shots.
3. Bill Walton. Too injury prone but when healthy was the most mechanically sound centers ever. Didn’t have any weakness. Outstanding rebounder, Outstanding Defender, Excellent passer. Had several excellent moves in the post. Really changed the flow of the game as a defender. Listed at 6’11” but was over 7′. Made everyone around him better. That 77 Blazer team that won the championship was Bill and a bunch of good players against Dr. J and a bunch of great talent but the better team won because Walton and Lucas dominated the Sixers bigs and made it difficult of Dr. J to get to the basket.
4. Shaq. Most dominate of his time. Don’t think he would have been as successful if he was playing against the caliber of competition that the first three played against. Wilt had Russell and then Kareem. Kareem had Wilt and Walton. Walton had Hakeem and Kareem and Robinson. Shaq didn’t really have anyone during the prime of his career. Still he was a dominate big man. Didn’t rebound as well as Wilt or Walton or Robinson or Hakeem. Very athletic but probably tainted his legacy by staying too long. Should have retired 2-3 years ago.
5. Hakeem Olajuwon: Extremely athletic. Outstanding spin move and fade away jumper. Game changer defensively and absolutely killed the Suns in the playoffs. Could run the floor but also excelled in the half-court. Listed at 7-0 but was closer to 6-10.
5. David Robinson: Unbelievable scorer, defender and rebounder but was too soft. Didn’t win championship until Duncan arrived and made them a more physical team. Robinson was probably most athletic big man since Wilt but just didn’t have a killer instinct. He would be the first team center if you were basing it on class but was too nice. Had difficulty with Shaq because of his size and strength.
As someone who saw the tail end of Hakeem and Robinson, I agree that those guys would be after Shaq, but the inclusion of Bill Walton really shocked me.
I know that Walton was a gifted player, but placing him as the third greatest C post Russell is a huge compliment, and shows you just how awesome he was.
Anyways, this was about Shaq, but also about getting some knowledge that a lot of us young fans didn’t have, and that is seeing some all-timers in their primes.
I appreciate my dad taking time out of his day and helping out, and hope you enjoyed his insight, as I enjoyed getting to be somewhat of a sap and have my old man help me out on Father’s day.