Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Too Bad Shaq Left Too Much On The Floor

Shaquille O'Neal announced that he's retiring from the NBA after a storied NBA career. He is indeed one of the greats of this league and will be a sure fire Hall Of Famer in five years. Over 28,000 points, four championships, three Finals MVPs and one NBA MVP award headline an outstanding resume.

Which makes it a shame that it coulda ... shoulda ... been much more.

Shaq had the potential to be the most physically dominant player this league has ever seen. He came into the league breaking backboards (and everything else), running the floor like a gazelle and introducing a brand new kind of swagger into a league that Michael Jordan ruled. To be that big, that fast and that quick was just unfair.

I don't think he maxed all of that talent. Sure, there was stretches of the brilliance that should have defined his career. From the moment he stepped into the NBA until his Laker career was coming to an end, Shaq was at or near the top of the league lead in scoring and shooting percentage. Yeah, a couple of guys named Jordan and Iverson had a lock on those scoring championships, but Shaq was always right there.

If there was anyone that could've challenged Jordan for one of those scoring titles, it would have been Shaq. Again, just look at the talent ... and the size.

However, Shaq didn't care as much about being dominant as he could have been -- he felt he was dominant enough. He famously said since he got hurt on company time, he will have surgery on company time. His conditioning left much to be desired. He would take it easy during the season to spend his energy for the playoffs. If he has spent a bit more time staying in shape, just think of the numbers he could have put up.

Instead he still sits behind a trio of centers that, I feel, had better careers. Wilt Chamberlain is still the greatest player to ever play in the NBA. People tend to forget how great Kareem Abdul Jabbar really was. Bill Russell? The greatest champion the NBA has ever seen.

I hope that Shaq will still hang around the NBA in some capacity. David Stern would be wise to make him some sort of ambassador to spread his infectious personality and sell the game. One of the truly greats of this game ... who could've been greater.

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