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NBA BEAT - SHAQ'D OUT - February 2008

Shaquille O'Neal - Business Wire photo

 

James Loving - National Radio Text Service - Friday February 15, 2008

 

 

He was a Miami Heat but that love affair flamed out and Shaquille O'Neal is now basking in the Phoenix Sun. The problem is why is Shaq always having problems with the teams. He's always so happy with when he joins and NO HAPPY when he departs

 

O'Neal is now basking in the Phoenix Sun.

Oh my….. he's gone as Hall & Oats sang but in this case we're talking about the SHAQ-MAN as in the song for Bat Man. He was a Miami Heat but that love affair flamed out and Shaquille O'Neal is now basking in the Phoenix Sun. The problem is why is Shaq always having problems with the teams he's on? He's always oh so happy with when he arrives and NO HAPPY when he departs. Why hasn't that come out?

Shaq had a love affair with the Orlando Magic when he was the NBA's number one (1) overall draft pick in 1992. Penny Hardaway was his sidekick Robin then and that relationship chilled out when Lil Penny became famous in a raisin commercial. After four seasons with the Magic Shaq moved on to the Lakers where at the time he was the BMOC (Big Man On Campus).

Yes Kobe was there as a rookie signed out of high school but was receiving very little PT (playing time) and indicated to me that he wasn't pleased about it. Bryant played in 71 of the 82 regular season games but racked up only 1103 minutes playing time for the season while averaging only 7.6 points per game. Shaq was the dominate force of the team but Bryant was growing and maturing and his playing time increased.

The tandem eventually bonded and that resulted in the Lakers three straight NBA championships (2000, 2001, 2002). In the 2003 season Bryant registered his career best 30 point per game average and the rumbles began and their harmony became distorted. The result being that when the Lakers made the choice for Bryant to be their new leader it was clear Shaq was no longer the BMOC. Shaq packed his bags and moved on to the Miami Heat where he achieved success and another NBA title in 2006.

Upon his arrival Shaq was happy to be partnered with Dwayne Wade to be his new sidekick. The question is what went wrong within two years where the Heat went from FIRST TO WORST and had the NBA's poorest record when the Shaq trade was made in exchange for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks.?

Criticism followed Shaq to the Suns and he's not happy about it. They say he's too old and too slow to fit the young up tempo game of the Suns. It's hard to disagree with that rationale.

When Shaq entered the league he was big but not fat. I wrote a story about his participation on the 1994 USA Dream team. Compared to the size he is now he was a svelte figure at that time. Since then he has suffered numerous injuries and will be 36-years old March 6th. Last season Shaq played in only 40 games and registered only 1135 minutes of playing time while averaging a career low 17.3 points a game.

Former NBA great Bill Walton criticized Shaq about his lack of effort. Shaq shot back that Walton had an injury plagued career and had no room to talk. Shaq was polite in his rebuttal reported on sports telecasts by addressing Walton as Mr. Walton. Walton is rated as one of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players in NBA History but missed three entire seasons due to injuries and played in only 468 regular season games of a possible 1148 during his 14 year NBA career. Entering this season Shaq has played in 981 of a possible 1230 regular season contests and 198 playoff games.

Walton's problem was a foot injury and anyone that knows about sports is aware that a foot injury is one of the toughest injuries to heal. Given the fact the sport demands of having to run and put weight on it most every minute of a game Walton still tried to come back and had success with the Boston Celtics where he was a part of a championship team in 1986.

I've interviewed Walton numerous times and worked along side him when he began his sports broadcasting career. Many times he was the first one in the press room preparing his notes for the game. He was diligent in the process.

Walton pointed out that he regretted that he couldn't contribute as much as he would have liked during his career but his foot injury continued to hurt during his comeback. Walton is known to always work hard. As a result of his hard work he overcame a stuttering problem and is now an excellent sports analyst currently with ABC/ESPN. It is doubtful that anyone would accuse Walton of not being a hard worker or fat.

Shaq noted that he's had discussions during his career with the greatest centers that NBA has ever had, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. No one can accuse them of being fat. For a player to keep his weight down is a part of their dedication to the game and work effort. Too much weight can lead to injuries.

Shaq has a history of those problems. This being the worst season of his career was Shaq was not voted into the All Star game thus ending his streak of 14 consecutive All-Star game selections. That achievement tied the record held by Jerry West and Karl Malone.

To say his career is at and end and his move to Phoenix is a poor fit is arguably justified. The ball is now on Shaq's court to prove his critics wrong.

 

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