Is Shaq's Legacy at Stake?

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Is Shaq's Legacy at Stake?
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

 

With Shaquille O'Neal getting traded from Phoenix to Cleveland during this past summer, every one started to say that the Cleveland Cavaliers were truly championship contenders. I would beg to differ in this case because they still have a couple of holes that need to be filled. Question: who faces the most pressure in this marriage? Some would say it's the Cavaliers organization because they must do everything possible to keep LeBron James in Cleveland; and I must admit that I tend to agree but only partially. As it stands right now, Shaquille O'Neal stands the most to lose in this deal. I had a conversation with my boys Money and Supreme (seriously, what would I do without these dudes, I feel like I owe these guys royalties; actually check that, they keep getting shout outs, if anything they are getting too much shine) and explained to them then that with Shaq now playing with King James, he absolutely needs to win another championship in order to keep his legacy intact as it pertains to the title of one of the best centers ever. Why do you ask? Picture yourself in about 60 years talking to your grandchildren and trying to explain to them that Shaquille O'Neal was arguably the most dominant center ever.

Shyne: Junior, you have no idea just how good this guy was, he terrified the league.

Shyne Jr II: I've heard the stories grand dad, but if he was that awesome, how come he only won 4 NBA titles?

Shyne: Only 4? Some great players have never won one NBA title and he did it 4 times. That's just how good he was. Karl Malone, John Stockton, Charles Barkley, Dominique Wilkins and Patrick 

Ewing all went ringless.

Shyne Jr II: I know that, but with the exception of Malone, none of those played with another Hall of Famer. Look at who Shaq played with : Penny Hardaway in his prime was the second coming of Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant is the best shooting guard we have seen since Michael Jordan, Dwyane Wade was the second best shooting guard of his era after Kobe Bryant and LeBron James is one of the best forwards in the history of the league. So with that, don't you think the Diesel should have won more titles?

At some point, don't we have to ask ourselves that question? Like I said, Shaquille O'Neal is a Hall of Fame center that will go down into history; but shouldn't all of his gaudy numbers and the guys with whom he played with have translated into more titles? The problem with answering this question is that as a fan I have the MJ disease. ESPN columnist Chris Broussard first touched on this during the summer when debating Kobe's legacy in comparison to Jordan. Although he did not give it a name, I decided to call it the MJ disease. This "disease" makes us measure all perimeter players accomplishments in comparison to those of MJ. Because the NBA is a big man's league, it's really hard for a franchise wing player to lead his team to a title without the presence of a great big man. Well Michael Jordan was the only one to do it and now instead of seeing him as the exception (you know because he's the GOAT and all), we now see him as the rule. But that's not the only aspect of the MJ disease. The other aspect involves the fact that we have been conditioned to believe that all a truly dominant player needs is at least another great player next to him to win a title. But is that accurate? Well let's look at the all the NBA title winners since 1980 and see how those teams were built in terms of their greatness. In order to properly evaluate this, I looked at those title teams and verified how many All-Stars and/or All-NBA performers were on these respective teams. Before you take a look at the list, take into account the fact that every player that made the All-NBA team on this list was also named an All-Star that year. So when it says no All-Star for the team that year, what it means is that no one besides the All-NBA performers on that team was named an All-Star.

1980-1981 Boston Celtics

All-NBA: Larry Bird and Dennis Johnson

All-Star: Robert Parish

 

1981-1982 Los Angeles Lakers

ALl-NBA: Magic Johnson

All-Star: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

 

1982-1983 Philadelphia 76ers

All-NBA: Maurice Cheeks and Moses Malone

All-Star: Julius Erving

 

1983-1984 Boston Celtics

All-NBA: Larry Bird

All-Stars: Kevin McHale and Robert Parish

 

1984-1985 Los Angeles Lakers

All-NBA: Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

All-Sstar: Norm Nixon

 

1985-1986 Celtics

All-NBA: Kevin McHale and Dennis Johnson

All-Stars: Larry Bird and Robert Parish

 

1986-1987 Los Angeles Lakers

All-NBA: Magic Johnson

All-Star: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

 

1987-1988 Los Angeles Lakers

All-NBA: Magic Johnson

All-Star: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

 

1988-1989 Detroit Pistons

All-NBA: None

All-Star: Isiah Thomas

 

1989-1990 Detroit Pistons

All-NBA: Dumars

All-Stars: Isiah Thomas and Dennis Rodman

 

1990-1991 Chicago Bulls

All-NBA: Michael Jordan

All-Star: None

 

1991-1992 Chicago Bulls

All-NBA: Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen

All-Stars: None

 

1992-1993 Bulls

All-NBA: Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen

All-Star: None

 

1993-1994 Houston Rockets

All-NBA: Hakeem Olajuwon

All-Star: None

 

1994-1995 Houston Rockets

All-NBA: Hakeem Olajuwon

All-Star: Clyde Drexler

 

1995-1996 Chicago Bulls

All-NBA: Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen

All-Star: None

 

1996-1997 Chicago Bulls

All-NBA: Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen

All-Star: None

 

1997-1998 Chicago Bulls

All-NBA: Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen

All-Star: None

 

1998-1999 San Antonio Spurs

All-NBA: Tim Duncan

All-Star: Lockout year, therefore no All-Star Game

 

1999-2000 Los Angeles Lakers

All-NBA: Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant

All-Star: None

 

2000-2001 Los Angeles Lakers

All-NBA: Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant

All-Star: None

 

2001-2002 Los Angeles Lakers

All-NBA: Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant

All-Star: None

 

2002-2003 San Antonio Spurs

All-NBA: Tim Duncan

All-Star: None

 

2003-2004 Detroit Pistons

All-NBA: Ben Wallace

All-Star: None

 

2004-2005 San Antonio Spurs

All-NBA: Tim Duncan

All-Star: Manu Ginobili

 

2005-2006 Miami Heat

All-NBA: Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade

All-Star: None

 

2006-2007 San Antonio Spurs

All-NBA: Tim Duncan

All-Star: None

 

2007-2008 Boston Celtics

All-NBA: Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce

All-Star: Ray Allen

 

2008-2009 Los Angeles Lakers

All-NBA: Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol

All-Star: None

 

After going through the list, I noticed two things:

1. The championship teams are stacked with talent up to 1985. You might see a couple All-NBA performers and All-Stars on the championship teams. But after 1985, it's as if almost all the title teams employ the two star system except for a select few: the 1988-1989 Detroit Pistons, the 1990-1991 Chicago Bulls, the 1993-1994 Houston Rockets, the 1998-1999 San Antonio Spurs, the 2002-2003 Spurs, the 2003-2004 Detroit Pistons and the 2006-2007 Spurs.

 

2. In the last 29 NBA seasons, it has only happened six times that a team has won an NBA title with only one player on the All-NBA team and no other All-Star on the team, so needless to say it doesn't happen often. Well you will notice that that San Antonio Spurs did it three times in the last decade; the common denominator: Tim Duncan. That's why he is considered to be the best power forward of all time.


After having seen that list, let's look at the years that Shaquille O'Neal played with other dominant or great players without winning a title.

 

1994-1995 Orlando Magic

All-NBA: Shaquille O'Neal and Penny Hardaway

All-Star: None

 

1995-1996 Orlando Magic

All-NBA: Shaquille O'Neal and Penny Hardaway

All-Star: None

 

2002-2003 Los Angeles Lakers

All-NBA: Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant

All-Star: None

 

2003-2004 Los Angeles Lakers

All-NBA: Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant

All-Star: None

 

2004-2005 Miami Heat

All-NBA: Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade

All-Stars: None

 

2006-2007 Miami Heat

All-NBA: Dwyane Wade

All-Stars: None

 

2007-2008 Phoenix Suns

All-NBA: Amare Stoudemire and Steve Nash

All-Stars: None

 

2008-2009 Phoenix Suns

All-NBA: Shaquille O'Neal

All-Star: Amare Stoudemire

 

After reviewing the list, we can see that Shaquille O'Neal has had eight seasons in which he played with at least one other great player but failed to win championship that year. Now to be fair, his last full season with Miami and his last two seasons in Phoenix do not hold as much weight as the previous seasons because he was no longer a dominant player. So realistically, the Diesel failed five times to capture a title while he was a top 10 player in the league playing with another top 10 player in the league. The Diesel lost to Olajuwon's Rockets, Michael's Bulls, Tim Duncan's Spurs and the Pistons. Some might argue that he lost against truly great players (Olajuwon, Jordan and Duncan), but shouldn't a truly great and dominant player player beat other great players as well? For instance, Michael beat out Barkley, Malone, Ewing and Payton to name a few. Duncan beat out the most dominant player of his era (yup, I'm talking about Shaq) and also beat out LeBron James without the presence of an All-Star. Shaq on the other hand has defeated Duncan twice and Michael Jordan once with the help of Kobe Bryant and Penny Hardaway. Check out a stat:

-The Diesel has played with players who have made a combined 12 All-NBA teams while playing with him;

-Kobe Bryant has played with players who have made a combined 10 All-NBA teams while playing with him;

-Tim Duncan has played with players who have made a combined five All-NBA teams while playing with him;

- All three of these players have four championship rings.

 

So has Shaquille O'Neal underachieved? The Diesel has had an outstanding career up to this point and has been able to win four titles. However, in comparison to some of the truly great players currently playing now, I think it's fair to say that O'Neal has indeed underachieved. Perhaps that can change with a title in the upcoming 2009-2010 season but another season without a title will just end up hurting Shaq's legacy. Whether it's the MJ disease or simply the thirst to see more, I (my opinion) feel as though Shaquille O'Neal should have at least five NBA titles at this point. Ultimately, it does not matter what I think though, what matters is the Diesel's own opinion of himself, and that alone might get him to position himself for a fifth title. Ball's in your court now big guy.

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