He’s been known as “the Big Diesel.”
He’s been called “Superman,” “Shaq-Daddy,” and most recently “the Big Shaqtus.”
Now that former Suns center Shaquille O’Neal has been officially traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers, fans can add another nickname to his growing list of many:
The Big Crutch.
Whether he chooses to acknowledges this or not, Shaquille O’Neal will be forever remembered as a great big man who can only win with the help of a bona-fide superstar.
Dating back to his early years with the Orlando Magic, Shaq has never won anything by himself. He won three rings with Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles and another with Dwayne Wade in Miami.
Of course in today’s self-serving world of professional sports, Shaq won’t be remembered as the man who needed a superstar help him win a ring.
Shaq will be remembered as the man who helps superstars win rings.
Which brings us to an all-world superstar in LeBron James.
Yes LeBron James—the man who desperately needs a championship to solidify himself among the games’ greats. The man who has single-handedly carried a franchise on his shoulders for years in pursuit of NBA glory.
The man who has never played with a comparable NBA star.
All that has seemingly changed with the arrival of the Big Aristotle.
Now LeBron James is paired with Shaq, he will be expected to win an NBA title next season. There will be no more excuses, complaints, or long stories. James finally has that elusive big man that helped Dwayne Wade and Kobe Bryant win championships, so James should have no problem winning a ring of his own.
There’s just one problem: This isn’t the same Shaq.
“L.A. Shaq” is different from “Miami Shaq," who was slightly better than “Phoenix Shaq,” who looks nothing like “LeBron’s Shaq.”
Shaquille O’Neal, who will turn 38 before next years’ playoff series, is exactly what he is —a 38-year-old NBA center. As great as he has been over the years, neither Cleveland or LeBron James should realistically expect a 38-year-old center to take them where they could never go before.
For James and the Cavaliers, Shaq’s arrival creates a two-sided dilemma.
If by some change a healthy and motivated Shaq does help LeBron James win a championship, he will immediately receive the Kobe Bryant treatment. Shaq will be forever associated with LeBron as the crutch James used to attain the greatness he could not achieve on his own.
There will be talk of LeBron “never winning the big one” by himself, which will tarnish his image and further talks of his inferiority to one Kobe Bryant.
If LeBron is not able to win a ring with Shaq, he will be viewed as the lone superstar who couldn’t get the job done with a Hall-of-Fame center in Shaquille O’Neal.
There will be talk of LeBron’s failing where others have succeeded, which will tarnish his image and further talks of his inferiority to one Kobe Bryant.
Regardless of how next season turns out, LeBron James will face criticism. Win or lose, James will forever be associated with Shaquille O’Neal, and his legacy will be forever tainted because of it.
By asking management to go after Shaq, LeBron has sealed his fate for the next few years.
An that in and of itself is a “Big Mistake."
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