Shaquille O'Neal and LeBron James: A Match Made in Championship Heaven?

Patrick MauroAnalyst IJuly 18, 2009

DENVER - FEBRUARY 20:   (L-R) LeBron James #23 and Shaquille O'Neal #32 of the Eastern Conference All-Stars smile on the bench in the final moments of the East's win over the Western Conference All-Stars the 54th All-Star Game, part of 2005 NBA All-Star Weekend at Pepsi Center on February 20, 2005 in Denver, Colorado.  The East won 125-115.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Michael and Scottie, Magic and Kareem, Shaq and Kobe are tandems synonymous with winning.

What about LeBron and Shaq?

LeBron James, the guy who graced the cover of Sports Illustrated as a high school junior, who could do no wrong, until he lost to the Magic, didn’t shake their hands, then supposedly got dunked on by a dude from Xavier who was wearing an Adidas jersey.

Where’s the cell phone video of that, or did Nike have all cellular communications scrambled? Does LeBron, all of a sudden, not seem as perfect as Nike would like you to think?

He’s yet to win a title, but if he wins next year, in his seventh season (just like Mike) I’ll begin to believe Phil Knight rules the world.

Conspiracy theories aside, LeBron's future in Cleveland depends on how well Shaquille O'Neal plays this season.

The Big Aristotle, The Diesel, the first to tell you they called him “Superman” in Orlando when Dwight Howard was being dropped off at kindergarten has won. Four times. The three with Kobe Bryant, then the prized 2006 title with Dwayne Wade.

He’s changed addresses and now he wants one more. Wants it bad. But is he still capable of winning?

His most memorable moment the last two years, as a Sun, was that Apollo Creed from Rocky 4-like moment during the introduction of the players at the 2009 NBA All-Star Game when he threw down some wicked moves with the JabbaWockeeZ dance troupe.

LeBron’s team played, and lost, in the NBA Finals two years ago. Then the Celtics bought their title via the acquisition of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, which denied King James in 2008, and the Magic’s stellar play in last month’s Eastern Conference Finals again kept the Nike guy from playing for the ring.

It was no fault of LeBron’s. He averaged 35.3 points on 51 percent shooting, 9.1 rebounds, and 7.3 assists. Incredible. His game winning three in Game 2 of the Conference Finals was the iconic moment of the playoffs.

Last year in Phoenix, Shaq averaged 17.8 points, 8.4 rebounds, but spent the post-season not playing basketball for the first time since he was a rookie.

The previous season the Suns made the move with Miami, landed Shaq and thought they finally have a player that could defend Tim Duncan.

The Spurs then eliminated Phoenix in the first round, with Duncan hitting a three after losing Shaq on defense to send Game One to overtime and set the tone for the series.

Who knows if LeBron and Shaq can coexist to the tune of the title, but Cavs fans are certainly excited. Season ticket interest is at an all-time high according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which is saying something considering the dire economic situation in that part of the country.

Shaq will be 38 when the playoffs begin next year.

Here’s the age the NBA’s greatest big men won their last title:

Bill Russell 35
Wilt Chamberlain 35
Kareem Abdul Jabbar 41
Hakeem Olajuwan 32
Shaq 34

Mo Williams will be a year older with playoff experience under his belt. Newly acquired Anthony Parker gives the team versatility in the back-court. Anderson Varejao and Shaq should be a tremendous rebounding tandem, but not so hot when it comes to hitting free throws.

The “hack-a-Shaq-or-Varejao” might be a new term for announcers doing Cavaliers games. Let’s hope Shaq doesn’t flop like Varejao.

Mo Williams/Daniel Gibson
Delonte West/Anthony Parker
LeBron James/Wally Szczerbiak
Anderson Varejao/Darnell Jackson
Shaquille O’Neal/Zydrunas Ilgauskas

Danny Ferry had to do something.

Steve Kerr thought he had to do something in Phoenix a year and a half ago. Thought Shaq was what he needed. The team has their third coach since the trade.

And now Shaq is gone with Ben Wallace, Sasha Pavlovic, and a 2010 second-round pick in exchange.

Cavs fans and Mike Brown hope the aftermath of their Shaq trade isn’t so chaotic, because if this doesn’t work out now, LeBron will be the big-name player changing addresses next summer.

And Ferry will never again be able to show his face in the state of Ohio.

Check out The Top 10 Under-the-Radar Breakout NBA Players for 2009-10

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