Shaquille O’Neal has become exactly what he dreaded: a token NBA center.
This week, O’Neal agreed to terms with the Boston Celtics, his sixth NBA team and fourth in three years. He had previous stops in Orlando, Los Angeles, Miami, Phoenix and Cleveland. He will make the minimum salary of $1.4 million for the Celtics this season, a far cry from his $20 million contract last year. And he’ll have to come off the bench and back up Jermaine O’Neal – another center well past his prime. Talk about your fall from the NBA pedestal.
Shaquille O’Neal, the self-proclaimed MDE (Most Dominant Ever), the three-time NBA Finals MVP, The Big Diesel, The Big Aristotle and The Big Cactus, has turned into a novelty act. He took a massive pay cut and a reduced role just so he can have another shot at winning a championship. Check that! Just so he can ride on someone else’s bandwagon.
The player once known as the biggest and baddest player on the planet has accepted a small role with the Celtics.
Shaq loves being referred to as The Man of Steel, and despises the fact that Dwight Howard has “stolen” that moniker from him. But Shaq hasn’t been the Superman-like since 2006. He averaged a human-like 12 points and six rebounds last season for Cleveland and when the free agency period began on July 1 there were very little takers for the four-time NBA champion.
Shaq has said more than once that he doesn’t want to be remembered as a guy who hung on too long and played well past his prime. Well, I’ve got news for Shaq. Dude, you are officially hanging on too long.
Patrick Ewing hung on two years too long. He wore the colors of the Seattle SuperSonics and the Orlando Magic the last two years of his 17-year Hall-of-Fame career, the majority of it with the New York Knicks.
Hakeem Olajuwon hung on one year too long. He wore the colors of the Toronto Raptors in the final season of his 18-year Hall-of-Fame career, the majority of it with the Houston Rockets.
And Moses Malone hung on three years too long. He was a bit player for the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers and San Antonio Spurs in the final three seasons of his 19-year Hall-of-Fame career, highlighted by five dominant seasons with the Rockets and four with the Sixers.
Great NBA players, or great athletes for that matter, just don’t know when to quit. It’s a sad commentary on today’s, as well as yesterday’s, professional athlete. Shaq, who turns 39 in March, has become THAT GUY. He has turned into the player he used to poke fun at when he used to rule the NBA planet. He has become that YMCA baller who hated running up and down fullcourt and preferred to play only 3-on-3 halfcourt. Shaq used to be THE GUY everyone followed. Now, he has become a follower.
Superman has turned into an overweight Clark Kent, and is no longer The Big Headliner on the front pages of the Daily Planet.