Lakers or Magic: Who Will Shaq Be Rooting For in The NBA Finals?

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Lakers or Magic: Who Will Shaq Be Rooting For in The NBA Finals?
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
After 82 regular season games and three playoff rounds, the 2009 NBA Finals matchup is set. The Los Angeles Lakers will face off against the Orlando Magic. This series brings a ton of questions to the table.

Will the Lakers avenge their loss in the Finals to the Celtics last season?

Will Orlando win its first championship in franchise history?

Can Kobe Bryant finally win a championship without Shaq?

Will Jameer Nelson, originally thought to be out with injury for the entire season, make a Willis Reed-like return to the court?

Disneyland or Disneyworld?

All of these questions could provide their own corresponding blog post. However, another question begs consideration: Who will Shaquille O’Neal be rooting for?

Shaq has played for both teams in the past and has been a fixture in the NBA Finals. In his 17 year career, he made the playoffs 15 times, reached the finals six times, and won four titles. In his four wins he was named NBA Finals MVP three times.

Being so familiar with both clubs as well as the finals, it’s only natural to wonder what his thoughts are on the current situation. He has reasons, in favor of and against, both teams.

Orlando was Shaq’s first team. They made him the No. 1 overall draft pick in 1992. It’s where people first became familiar with the big man who revolutionized the center position.

His combination of size, strength, and athleticism made him one of the best post players in the history of the game.

He went to his first NBA Finals with the Magic, even though they were swept by the Houston Rockets. Shaq’s home is in Orlando, and there has been talk about him wanting to buy the team when he retires.

However, Shaq has lashed out against the current Magic organization this year.

After a game against his former team, Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy—who coached Shaq in his first season with the Miami Heataccused Shaq of flopping on a play against Dwight Howard.

Shaq didn’t take too kindly to Van Gundy’s criticism and called him a “master of panic.”

Now that SVG has helped the Magic get into the finals, if Orlando won, the “master of panic” would be a champion and Shaq might have to eat his words.

There is also the matter of Orlando’s new “Superman,” Dwight Howard.

Shaq has always been linked to the Man of Steel, proof being his Superman tattoo as well as Superman paraphernalia that adorned his house that was featured on MTV’s Cribs.

Now, however, Howard has also been given the Superman moniker. Howard even donned the cape not once, but twice in dunk competitions.

The Superman theme music is played at Amway Arena when Howard scores. Shaq has taken offense to this. He was quoted: “He's a good player, but everything he's done, I've invented. So I'm not impressed.”

Although Shaq does like Howard, he has always been protective of his legacy as one of, if not the best, big man ever to play.

How would he feel if Howard, the man who “copied” his Superman identity, won Orlando’s first Finals game, let alone championship, something the “Big Cactus” never could do himself?

L.A. is the place where Shaq won his first and the majority of his championships.

However, after they lost to the Pistons in 2004, Shaq demanded a trade. Friction between Shaq and star teammate Bryant existed prior to the loss, each trying to be the alpha male, the top dog, but losing to the Pistons in the championship was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

The relationship between Shaq and Bryan grew personal. The two traded barbs about their interactions with females on the road.

Shaq was shown doing a freestyle rap about Bryan, including the line, “Kobe couldn’t do it without me.” Shaq would also refuse to acknowledge Kobe during interviews.

However, this season, it looked like the feud is over. The two shared All-Star MVP honors and laughed and embraced each other on the court. Shaq has praised Bryant in the media and on his twitter page.

Still, again looking to Shaq’s perception of his legacy, Shaq has won a championship without Bryan (although one could argue that he, in fact, played second fiddle to Dwayne Wade).

If Bryant to win without Shaq, how would Shaq really take it?

Shaq has had his ups and downs with both teams. This matter look like it will be settled due to timeliness.

Hours after the Magic beat Cleveland to advance to the finals, Shaq’s twitter featured a reply to a user that said, “I'm a go wit the lake show” (sic).

Shaq has made up with Bryant this year while conversely, his feud with Van Gundy happened just recently, in March.

When one feud ends, another begins, and it looks like Van Gundy and Orlando get the short end of the deal this time around, at least in Shaq’s world.

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