NBA Newlyweds: LeBron James and Shaquille O'Neal
LeBron James has a new BFF.
While it might not be Paris Hilton, it is Shaquille O'Neal, who has become an NBA equivalent of wrinkly Rolling Stones rocker Mick Jagger. Despite his aging years, Shaq's brides always seem to stay the same age.
Onto his fifth set of nuptials of his career, there has been plenty of satisfaction for Diesel. Firstly with high school sweetheart Kobe Bryant in LA, then he had a fling with his prom date Dwyane Wade in Miami. Steve Nash in Phoenix was a cougar by comparison, and, unsurprisingly, that relationship didn't last.
Like anyone who has been down the aisle as often as he has, there has been love and betrayal along the way, along with trust and dishonesty and pain and hurt.
But now Shaq has found love again with youth.
Who said you can't always get what you want?
At first glance, the bride of this latest relationship isn't totally clear. Shaq has always demanded respect but hasn't always given it back. He comes second to nobody. His childish sniping of Orlando's Dwight Howard this past season showed that Shaq can sometimes be a contradiction of himself.
He can't understand why he isn't always given his dues, but then dismisses others' claims.
But there is no doubt that O'Neal is in Cleveland at the behest of James. He'll be expected to follow the King's orders just like everyone else under James' rule, management included.
The Cavs are desperate and the stakes are at their greatest. There might not be any second chances from here. No matter who was at fault for their exit to the Orlando Magic in the playoffs, Cleveland knows that they cannot afford to lose LeBron's trust.
If he walks next season, the Cavs will get nothing in return and Shaq goes too. If Cleveland can't win a championship with James, what hope do they have without him?
In Shaq, the Cavs are hoping the big Aristotle can muster one last challenge. He's 37, but last season he made the All-Star game and proved that, individually, he can still be a factor.
However, the Phoenix Suns missed the playoffs, which showed that, while Shaq is still capable, he can no longer carry a team by himself.
In what is expected to be the final chapter of his monster career, Shaq's final act could be the most poignant.
It allows him a final chance to leave the game on top, as a winner and a champion (again) with a handful of rings, rather than fade off into retirement quietly and irrelevantly as he did this year in Phoenix before the postseason had even begun.
Shaq has never needed motivation.
Always believing he's under appreciated, the Cavs will be hoping that watching former flame Kobe Bryant lift his fourth championship was precisely the fuel Shaq needed to stoke the fire for one last challenge.
Known to hold grudges, jealousy and revenge have inspired him in the past to prove that he is still relevant and that his legacy deserves the utmost respect.
Kobe still has plenty of time to add to his trophy cabinet, and Shaq knows that this might be his last shot at getting in the final word.
Tensions between the two appear to have eased in recent years, but you can be sure that Shaq won't be the first to toast Kobe if Bryant overtakes O'Neal and reaches five championships, especially as Bryant could conceivably reach as many as six or seven before he retires.
The Cavs thought they had done enough to give LeBron all that he needed by adding point guard Mo Williams last season, but they were badly exposed against the Orlando Magic in the playoffs.
In Shaq, they have a beast, though this time without the burden of a franchise resting on his shoulders.
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