Shaq to Cavs: Good News For NBA Fans, Bad News For Him

Alex McVeighSenior Analyst IJune 25, 2009

FORT WORTH, TX - JUNE 06:  NBA All-Star Shaquille O'Neal speaks at a press conference prior to the IRL IndyCar Series Bombardier Learjet 550k on June 6, 2009 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

I'll admit it.

Though I'm not a particularly big Shaq or Cavs fan, I'm excited to see Shaq on the Cavs. Two stars—one completing his final descent, one just breaking into a possibly untapped section of the stratosphere—are bound to show NBA fans something worth our time and money.

Even though he's not the player he once was, Shaq is far and above the best low post player LeBron will have ever played with.

It will be interesting to see, and I know for sure I'll be watching most Cavs games.

But you know who doesn't benefit? Shaq himself.

He has joined forces with LeBron, and there are only two possible outcomes for next season; the Cavaliers win the NBA championship, or they do not.

Both outcomes will affect Shaq's legacy, and I think in a negative way. Let's take a look.


1. The Cleveland Cavaliers do not win the NBA championship

Given the parity in today's NBA, this is probably the most likely scenario.

Shaq does not add a young scorer that can take the pressure off of LeBron. So what happens to Shaq?

All of a sudden, Shaq brought about the end of the run-and-gun Suns and possibly the LeBron James era in Cleveland.

Suddenly, the man who boasted that he brought championship rings wherever he went, is dead weight.

The Suns went from the number one team in the West to a lottery team during Shaq's tenure.

The Cavaliers, with the best record in the NBA last year, have really nowhere to go but down.

Maybe suddenly people start remembering Shaq a little worse. What happens if he feuds with LeBron over touches?

I think it's pretty clear that the public will side with LeBron. He younger, more dynamic, and has a history of clutch. There's no question who the offense should be running through.

But you would have thought the same thing with the Suns. With Amare and Jason Richardson, Shaq should be a third option, maybe second, but not in crunch time.

Rumors of locker room tensions that originated in Shaq's lack or touches remain his legacy in the Valley of the Sun.

Worse yet, if it's another ringless year for LeBron, the overall philosophy of Cleveland's GM, Danny Ferry comes into question. He has spent LeBron's career trying to surround him with serviceable veterans, thinking that their experience would help guide LeBron to a championship.

While it has led to LeBron being a good guy off the court, it hasn't led to success on the court.

Instead of surrounding LeBron with young guys that could grow with him into a tight knit core, LeBron has been like the talented little brother; taught by experienced, but ultimately untalented older brothers.

Bill Simmons and Chad Ford pointed this out, and it's true: Danny Ferry's philosophy is much different than his other GM friend, the Thunder's Sam Presti.

Presti has drafted a young stud every year, and now he's got three, probably four, future superstars. Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, and Russell Westbrook, 2009 no. 3 pick are 22 years of age or younger. Along with this year's No. 3 pick, these players have the chance to gel for a few years.

The one thing that will drive LeBron away faster than anything is if he believes the way his GM does business is not a winning model.


2. The Cleveland Cavaliers win the NBA championship

Thinking about it, it will probably be worse for Shaq's legacy.

You're probably thinking, "How could a fifth ring hurt his legacy?"

After all, it would give him one more up on Kobe, particularly if he beats Kobe in the 2010 Finals.

But what no one has mentioned about Shaq is this: he has only won a title when playing with a top 5 player in the NBA. Kobe, Wade, and now LeBron.

Kobe got crap for years for not winning without Shaq, but Shaq has had the best help imaginable, short of Jordan. When he was playing with a less-than-stellar, but good, lineup, he failed to win it all.

No one ever accused Shaq of riding coattails, but they might if he wins with LeBron.

Then what happens? You don't think Shaq will retire after winning a title do you?

We've all heard about his "countdown", but there's no way he leaves after winning the big one.

So does he stay with Cleveland? Not if LeBron jets. Even if LeBron stays, it could be unlikely that they want to sign a 38-year old Shaq to a two-year deal.

So say someone else, desperate to sell tickets, signs him. You think a 38, 39 or 40-year old Shaq isn't going to be terrible?

Face it, the only way Shaq benefits by going to Cleveland is by winning multiple titles.

And that, my friends, is one tall order, even for the Big Aristotle.