Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Sad, Unecessary End Of Shaq's Career

Look, I'm rarely the one who screams that athletes should retire when I want them to. The window to be a pro player is so short that everyone should be able to squeeze every drop out of it.

That being said, sometimes players are squeezing too hard and finding nothing.

Shaquille O'Neal is one of those guys. Shaq has had an amazing career. Four championships, an MVP award, scoring title, yada yada yada. No one over the last two decades in the NBA has had a bigger personality than him. For a good ten year stretch, Shaq was one of the most feared and skilled big men that ever played.

That's what makes the end of his career so sad. Shaq signed with the Boston Celtics yesterday for the veteran's minimum. He wants to "win" a ring so "badly" that he's willing to take a major pay cut. That's fine for a guy to ride the coat-tails of someone else at the end of his career ... provided that it would be their lone chance to taste the championship spoils. But Shaq has won four rings. He was the Finals MVP on three of those teams. HE has been the focal part of championship teams already. Winning one with the Celtics while averaging 10 ppg and 6 rpg is beneath him.

When we remember Shaq ... we will most likely remember him storming into the league in Orlando, dominating with the Lakers then bringing a title to Miami. People hopefully will forget that destroyed path of playing for Phoenix, Cleveland and Boston to close out his career. In each instance, Shaq felt he was going to a team to win another title. In each instance, the team underachieved. Whether or not Shaq was the reason for it is debatable.

For those of us who remember that Shaq who tore down backboards ... the guy who was 350 lbs yet as nimble as a guard ... we are saddened at the fact that we will get to see that old Shaq lumbering up and down the floor, getting beat on defense and bowling around the paint for some baby hook shots.

The sad thing is that this is all unecessary. If Shaq wanted to really squeeze a few more drops out of his career then maybe he should've tried a little harder during his prime. It was seemingly always out of shape, always had nagging problems, barely worked on his free throws and rarely put up the effort on defense. He also couldn't handle Kobe Bryant and whined his way out the door in L.A. If he could have stayed with Kobe and had 50% of the intensity that Kobe possesses, Shaq would be sitting on 7 rings right now. You can't tell me that a Kobe-Shaq teaming during the mid-to-late 2000s wouldn't have netted several more rings; especially one where Shaq was committed to being ready to go at the start of the season.

For Shaq, he's holding on too long. While that's not a problem that he isn't retiring yet since that is his right, it just makes me feel weird watching it.


John said...

You spelled ‘Unnecessary’ wrong in the title and you contradict yourself when you say that “The window to be a pro player is so short that everyone should be able to squeeze every drop out of it.” Be respectful for his decision like how some would have respect for LeBron bookin’ it to the Miami Hate. Wouldn’t it be nice for all our kids to see Shaq play one more season? Seeing him as a role player may illustrate to all that he’s a team-player that gains respect by contributing to his capacity and not overplaying as a ball hog. He’s not interested in money, he made $20 million last year, and he has lots more. What makes you think that it’s beneath him? He’s still making more money than anyone I know with the veteran minimum. Respect his decision; he’s not Brett Farve!

Graham said...

Yeah, like so many people respected LeBron's move. And I can't wait for my kid to look up at me and say "Daddy, THIS is the guy you made a big deal over? THIS is the dominant big man you were talking about? Puh-lease, he can't carry Howard's jock!" That's what I want my kid to remember.
No one enjoyed Jordan struggling with the Wiz. No one enjoyed Emmit Smith getting barely 2 yards a carry with the Cardinals. No one enjoyed watching Armstrong finish an hour behind in the Tour de France. When athletes hang on too long it's nothing but sad.

Norman Dale said...

I wish this article was the end of your writing career. Give me a break. Of course it's near the end of his career, he's not going to be as good as earlier.

Was it Shaq's fault Kobe sucked from 1996-1998 and he had no other help, and hence couldn't win more titles? No.

You'll be writing this article once Kobe is in year 2 of his new contract, struggling to score 18 ppg.