Monday, February 11, 2008

I'm a Shaq Fan

As a diehard Lakers fan and a dedicated Shaquille O’Neal supporter, the recent trade sending O’Neal to the Phoenix Suns has me torn. To read the other side of my internal debate, read “I’m a Lakers Fan.”

Challengers beware. The Suns just turned up the heat out west.

Suns General Manager Steve Kerr knew exactly what he was doing when he gave up a four-time all-star and key member of the Suns’ run-and-gun offense, Shawn Marion, to bring Shaquille O’Neal to Phoenix. And just like that, Pau Gasol was only the second biggest acquisition in the Western Conference.

In three previous NBA stops O’Neal has led his team to the NBA Finals. He teamed with Penny Hardaway in Orlando, Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles and Dwyane Wade in Miami. Two-time MVP Steve Nash must be excited to welcome the Diesel to Phoenix.

Forget points per game or age. The only number that matters in this equation is four – the number of championship rings O’Neal has won.

Cast aside the questions of how O’Neal will fit in with Phoenix’s seven seconds or less mentality. This isn’t about offensive schemes. This is a character acquisition. He may be in the desert, but Shaq is Hollywood. He’s a larger than life personality. And, most importantly, he’s a winner. In fact, O’Neal has never played a season in the NBA on a losing team. Only in his rookie season did he not play on a playoff team—his Orlando Magic lost a tiebreaker with Indiana for the eighth seed in the East.

O’Neal brings star power to the Suns that even Steve Nash can’t come close to. They suddenly got the bump from supporting actor to lead role in the story of how the 2008 West was won.

And if Phoenix is to get over the hump, it’ll be the man who rapped on Shaq Diesel and acted in Kazaam that will make it happen. What figures to be the final installment in a surefire Hall of Fame career will take place in Phoenix, and the rest of the league has to be worried because they’re going to encounter a motivated Shaquille O’Neal.

Motivated to show Miami he still had Diesel left in the tank. Motivated to show the Lakers that their acquisition of Pau Gasol still isn’t enough to get them back to the level they were at when O’Neal was in purple and gold. Motivated to show everyone who said the Suns were crazy to make this deal that the doubters are the crazy ones.

O’Neal doesn’t want to bookend his career with close calls in Orlando and Phoenix. The Suns were close before making this trade. So this isn’t about coming close. They have to win it all, or the trade will be viewed as a bad move. O’Neal knows that and welcomes the challenge.


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