Big Shaq’s legacy; Heat and Mavs all tied up, and Mark Jackson named Golden State head coach.
By Michael Brown,
Sentinel Sports Writer
Shaq’s Legacy after Retirement
Shaquille O’Neal had a habit of flashing his customary wide grin and cracking jokes. He left the game in the same fashion that he entered it: having fun. Photo by Jeff Lewis
Last Friday, in a press conference held in his home of all places, Shaquille O’Neal decided to call it quits after 19 seasons in the NBA.
During the made-for-TV event, O’Neal hammed it up with the media, repeatedly flashing his customary wide grin and cracking jokes, leaving the game in the same fashion that he entered it: having fun. O’Neal will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest centers and players ever, but his king-size personality will always be another one of his hallmarks.
When O’Neal entered the league in 1992 at 20 years old, the comparisons to Wilt Chamberlain were immediate due to his sheer size (7″1 and 325 pounds). The comparisons reached a fever pitch when O’Neal dunked and tore down two rims early in his career, including once shattering a backboard. No one had witnessed that kind of power since Chamberlain. O’Neal could also be credited with introducing the NBA audience to the incoming hip-hop influenced young basketball players.
When he entered the league, the old guard, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and the like, were children of the ’60s for the most part. O’Neal grew up during hip hop’s inception in the late ’70s and throughout the ’80s, which allowed him to fuse rap, movies and the NBA. It wasn’t uncommon to see O’Neal excel on the court and recording songs with artists like Fu Schnickens and Notorious B.I.G. while starring in movies such as “Blue Chips” and the forgettable “Kazaam.”
Shaq’s outside interests drew the ire of critics who questioned his “commitment” but, he silenced all naysayers when he was traded from Orlando to the Lakers and won three consecutive titles with Kobe Bryant.
Unfortunately, ego got the best of both Shaq and Bryant, leading to the dismantling of a team that could have won a few more titles. Shaq finished with four titles and scored more than 28,000 points. He easily could have won more championships with Bryant and scored 3 to 4,000 more points if he shot better from the free throw line.
Some are arguing that O’Neal is the best center ever, but I beg to differ. He’s not even the Lakers’ best center. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar still holds the league-record for points with 38,387. Chamberlain averaged 30.1 points per game during his career and led the league numerous times in rebounds and once in assists. O’Neal’s numbers pale in comparison with 23.7 points and 10.9 rebounds per game for his career. That’s not to take anything away from O’Neal, he’s a first ballot Hall of Famer, but I think some of his potential was unrealized.
O’Neal missed plenty of games throughout his career due to injury, likely as a result of bad conditioning. He excelled on brute force for the first half of his career and never fully developed his game. That said O’Neal was one of a kind. He’s a top-five center in my book along with Abdul-Jabbar, Chamberlain, David Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon.
NBA Finals: Late-Game Heroics help Mavs Stave off Defeat
Prior to Game 4, Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki called out teammate Jason Terry for his lack of “clutch” play in the fourth quarter. Well, I guess Terry took the all-star forward’s words to heart because after going scoreless in Dallas’ two losses during the fourth quarter, he scored eight crucial points, helping the Mavericks to a 86-83 win against Miami.
It wasn’t easy for the Mavericks as they trailed 74-65 early in the fourth quarter, needing yet another comeback to rescue their championship hopes. Not only did Terry clutch-up, but a fever-stricken Nowitzki also chipped-in during the fourth with 10 points. He led the Mavs with 21 points despite shooting six-for-19 from the field. If you thought his stat line was bad, take a look at LeBron James’. James finished with a meager eight points, while only making 3 of 11 shots.
Miami had a chance to deliver the knockout blow in the fourth, but James’ play nullified that. He and Dwayne Wade have been an unstoppable 1-2 punch, but Tuesday night, Wade’s 32 points couldn’t save the Heat. Ultimately, if the Heat loses this series, they’ll have no one to blame but themselves. They blew a 15-point lead during Game 2 in the fourth and lost, and nearly coughed up a 14-point lead during Game 3 before escaping with an 88-86 victory.
With all that said, at this point, it’s no longer a seven-game series. It’s the best of three and Miami host two of those games. Wade is playing brilliantly akin to the last time he faced Dallas in the Finals in 2006.
That’s all fine and dandy, but let’s gets real. The remainder of this series is all about James. When the final buzzer sounds, he’ll either retain his title as “The King” or go down as merely another pretender to the throne.
Mark Jackson hired to coach Warriors
Impending labor troubles or not, the Golden State Warriors continue to make moves. Monday, they hired Mark Jackson as head coach. Jackson’s hire follows the naming two weeks ago of Jerry West as a front office consultant by new owner Joe Lacob. Jackson’s hire flew under the radar because the Warriors were reportedly interested in assistant Brian Shaw and Mike Brown, who accepted the Lakers coaching job.
Jackson hasn’t previously coached and has worked as an NBA analyst for ESPN the past several seasons. Whether either hire translates into wins is anyone’s guess, but Jackson and West bring instant credibility to a franchise that could use the help.
Hiring a coach without any experience is dicey, but I think Jackson could be an exception. Listening to Jackson’s astute analysis over the years, puts to rest any notions of his basketball acumen not being up to par. I’m confident Jackson will surround himself with knowledgeable and veteran assistants to lean on during the learning curve.
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