Remembering Shaq

2 06 2011

Shaq Daddy called it quits today after 19 seasons, 28,596 points, four titles and a full day’s worth of YouTube highlights. I have so much love for Shaq from his tenure with the Lakers (1996-2004) and the three championships he had such a big part in winning for the franchise. But there’s one point I’d like to clear up regarding how I feel about his place in NBA history.

My boys at SLAM ranked Shaq #4 all-time in its recent Top-500 NBA players issue, which you must cop if you haven’t already. It seems a common notion for NBA fans to rank Shaq with Kareem, Wilt and Russell among the NBA’s best ever centers. I tend to think Shaq is on a tier with Hakeem just below Kareem, Wilt and Russ. Here’s why: Unlike the three just mentioned, Shaq can’t outright claim to being the better than anyone else at any facet of the game.

Kareem is the NBA’s all-time leading scorer and has the most regular season MVPs (six) ever. Russell’s 11 championships are the most ever and it’s well-accepted that he would be the NBA’s all-time blocks leader if the statistic had been kept in his day. Wilt was the most dominant player statistically. Forget his 50-point season or 100-point game for a minute — he averaged 39.6  points and 24.8 rebounds for seven seasons from 1959-66. Even Hakeem can take credit for being the NBA’s all-time blocks leader with 3,830, even if Russ and Wilt likely accumulated more during their careers.

Shaq, great as he is, was never the MDE, as he so often claimed. His four rings leave him behind Russ and Kareem. His one regular season MVP is criminally low given his impact during his prime yet it will forever remain unchanged. Shaq is 12th all-time in rebounds, seventh in blocks and fifth in points, although Kobe Bryant will probably pass him in that last stat in the next season or two.

It’s perhaps more appropriate to label Shaq as the greatest self-marketer the NBA, maybe any sport, has seen. His charisma is unmatched. His athletic ability was something to behold, especially for a man his size. He doesn’t have to be the greatest ever to be remembered fondly; he doesn’t even have to be ranked among the top tier of centers.

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One response

3 06 2011
Angel Navedo

Nothing to really disagree with in your assessment of his career. Arguments can be made regarding quality of surrounding talent in previous eras, of course, but stats are what they are. Dominance is admired, and that’s what Wilt, Russell, and Kareem did.

I just want to note the humor I found in you remembering Shaq fondly for his time with L.A., when that’s the point of his career that hurt me most. It’s all perspective, and yours as a Lakers fan supports those feelings. But I was a Magic fan, by way of Penny, as a kid. Shaq’s best work as a pro went unappreciated over here — out of pure resentment.

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