For the Boston Celtics, the acquisition of Shaq makes all the sense in the world.
Kendrick Perkins will be sidelined for about half the upcoming season and will probably need even longer to regain his form as the stellar inside presence that he was prior to his knee injury in Game Six of the 2010 NBA Finals.
They needed someone to fill the void.
It wasn’t like the Celtics’ earlier pickup of Jermaine O’Neal was going to make the Celtics frontcourt much better, and with the NBA’s newest “Big Three” in Miami, the Celtics had to do something to keep themselves relevant.
Point to the fact that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh have yet to log a single minute on the same team all you wish, but you’d be a fool to overlook a team boasting that kind of talent, particularly when they’ve managed to gather a pretty good supporting cast featuring Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Mike Miller, and Eddie House.
Had the Celtics elected to stand pat, they would have been doing themselves an injustice—but it wouldn’t have compared to the injustice that Shaq has done to his own legacy.
It was one thing when he joined the Heat a few weeks after the 2004 Finals. His feud with Kobe Bryant had become too unmanageable, and when the Lakers were faced with a team boasting the kind of chemistry the Pistons had, the bottom just fell out.
When it reached the point that neither Shaq nor Kobe could move on without sacrificing their egos, it was all over. Shaq wanted a fresh start, and he got it with the Heat and their young and upcoming phenom Dwyane Wade.
But it didn’t take too long for Shaq to fall out with Wade and the Heat’s management. Soon afterwards, he quit on–oops, I meant got traded by Miami to Phoenix only to suffer a first round elimination one year, and failed to qualify for the playoffs the next.
By then, Shaq’s legacy had taken a substantial beating. Here was the only player in NBA history not named Michael Jordan to win the NBA Finals MVP three consecutive years slowing teams down, disrupting chemistry and searching for a home.
From 2000-02, Shaq was arguably the most dominant center of all time, yet here he was essentially whoring himself to the best team available.
When Shaq joined LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers after his stint in Phoenix had come to an end, well...he became a very difficult player to take seriously. The Cavaliers were Shaq’s fifth NBA team. Fifth.
By contrast, NBA greats Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, and Wilt Chamberlain switched teams a combined five times in their careers. Ewing, who leads the group with two team changes, only did so in the last two seasons of his career, switching once from his beloved Knicks to the Seattle Supersonics and switching for the final time to the Orlando Magic.
An all time great like Shaq heading to a fifth team was and still is unheard of, but at least he was maintaining some type of theme for his career by playing with some of the best scorers and overall players of our generation.
Make any list of players that you want, but nearly every respectable source would have Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade listed as the game’s top three players, regardless of order. Had Shaq been able to help the Cavaliers win a championship, he would’ve been able to say that he helped all of the top three players in the league win their first title.
Now Shaq has completely eradicated the one positive image people had left of him: his legacy in Los Angeles. The critical role he played in three Laker championships are no longer withstanding; one game as a Celtic erases everything.
Its no longer Shaq teaming up with Kobe’s newest rival—its him betraying the franchise and team that he became most notable with. What Shaq doesn’t know is that he’s become almost comical in the process.
Now he’s the bulky video game controller that you can get for cheap, but might throw you off in the course of a game.
He’s the rocket launcher in Halo that’s big and powerful, but is almost guaranteed to get you killed if you misfire with it.
He’s the bandwagon jumper at school who was a Lakers' fan in 2004, a Pistons' fan in 2005 and a Mavericks' fan for the majority of 2007.
Its just a shame that most people don’t see his true colors, even now.
LeBron James switches teams once and he’s a traitor, a turncoat, a villain. Shaq does it the last four consecutive years and he gets a new nickname.
I’ll be the first to admit that Shaq would have been hard pressed to find a team that puts him in better position to win a title than the Boston Celtics, but at this point it hardly matters. The damage that Shaq has done to his legacy and reputation is irreparable.
As Charles Barkley put it “There’s a difference between being a champion and winning a championship."
Even if Shaq manages to secure a fifth NBA ring with the Boston Celtics, he’ll hardly be in the company that greats like Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, Larry Bird, and Isiah Thomas occupy.
Though some have moved on to take managerial positions with other teams, they all have franchises they can legitimately call home. They know the joys of being loved and revered by a fan base well after their playing days had come to an end.
They have all experienced the honor of seeing their jersey hang from a stadium’s rafters.
That’s something Shaq will never know regardless of how many more teams he jumps onto.