2010 NBA Free Agent Rumors: Shaquille O'Neal: "The Big Sheriff"?

Jamaal FosterCorrespondent IJuly 6, 2010

ATLANTA - DECEMBER 29:  Shaquille O'Neal #33 of the Cleveland Cavaliers against Zaza Pachulia #27 of the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on December 29, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  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 Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Among the stories that have floated around the NBA since the early dismissal of the Cleveland Cavaliers is the status of future Hall-of-Famer Shaquille O'Neal, and how he has eluded the headlines.

Shaq is arguably the most physically dominating force that the NBA has seen since Wilt Chamberlain.  What's better, is the amount of championship medal that he sports.

Though some would say the original basketball "Man of Steel" has shown much rust in his latter years, he is a disappearing breed.  A true NBA big man.

The Atlanta Hawks flirted with "The Big Formerly-known-as" this past weekend and anyone who knows NBA basketball had to sit up and take notice of this.

This is a masterful play by the Hawks if they can make it come true. 

An Atlanta sports team needs to have a marketing cog that they can hang their hat on.  The team must have star power and be entertaining. 

The most popular sports team in Atlanta is clearly the Falcons and they have a colorful history with Deion Sanders, Andre Rison, The "Dirty Bird," and Mike Vick.

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The Atlanta Hawks have had Dominique "The Human Highlight Film" and now the "Highlight Factory" led by former slam dunk champ, Josh Smith.

Beside the backdrop of ticket sales, this is exactly what Hawk fans have been asking for since the departure of Dikembe Mutombo.

The smart money says Josh Childress has learned to stop playing with PIGS (did you get that?) and will return to the NBA this summer.  If you don't remember he's another 6'8" swing man that can shoot the three and defend.  Our memory of Josh Childress is better than Marvin Williams on his best day.

Congratulations Hawks. You may have walked into a 9-10 man rotation that is worthy to fight for Eastern Conference supremacy.

PG:  Jeff Teague/Mike Bibby

SG:  Jamaal Crawford/Jordan Crawford

SF:  Joe Johnson/Josh Childress

PF:  Al Horford/Josh Smith

C:  Shaquille O'Neal/Al Horford

With Joe Johnson and Josh Childress on the court at the same time, the Hawks can have one of the best DEFENSIVE tandems at the swing in the NBA.  (Notice, no Marvin Williams.)

Let's not kid ourselves thinking that Shaquille will be healthy and in shape for a full regular season and playoffs.  Shaq will join the team for a series against Orlando.  Horford will still play a lot of minutes at center and Josh Smith is 100 percent necessary.

Josh Smith puts the highlight factor IN the "Highlight Factory."  If they move Josh Smith for any reason Hawk fans will only be left with "y."  (As in: "Why buy a ticket?)

There is another aspect that Shaq is needed for—VOCAL LEADER. 

On a team that is free spirited and undisciplined Shaq is coming to make all our little soldiers march in step.  He will be the iron fist that makes Larry Drew's word ring out in Philips Arena.  Shaq has the rings, the experience, and the pure intimidation that can turn the Hawks into a force in the NBA.

Welcome to Atlanta, "Big Sheriff." There will be a reserved place at Magic City for you I'm sure.