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Shaquille O'Neal: Legacy Forgotten, But Now Remembered with the Boston Celtics

Derrick MorrisContributor IOctober 19, 2010

BOSTON - MAY 13:  Kendrick Perkins #43 of the Boston Celtics and Shaquille O'Neal #33 of the Cleveland Cavaliers fight for the ball during Game Six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2010 NBA playoffs at TD Garden on May 13, 2010 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics defeated the Cavaliers 94-85.  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 Elsa/Getty Images)
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Some phrases that are now associated with Shaq’s game are as followed:  “Old”, “Washed-up” and “Slow”.  But let us rewind ten years…  No one would dare describe Shaq as any of those things or they would be strait up lying and his/ her favorite team would reap the consequences of those comments.

In today’s NBA, fans so often forget how unstoppable Shaq was during his time with the Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers, and early years with the Miami Heat. People also forget that he has four NBA championships, one league MVP and had been elected NBA Finals MVP three times. During his prime, Shaq commanded double-teams every time he touched the ball and still managed to average 29.7 points per game (1999-00 Lakers).Opposing teams were forced to put two bodies to try and contain Shaq but despite their efforts he still managed to grab 13.6 rebounds per game. This is the true definition of dominance and how a player builds his own legacy.

While still being a dominate force, Shaq killed off almost all of the other “traditional centers “. More recently Shaq has brought to light what actually happened to the “real centers” in the NBA.  “I think I killed off all the centers and now all the centers want to play the European-style basketball”, said Shaq. “There’s only 1.5 or 2 real centers left, Dwight Howard and Yao Ming. Every now and then Yao Ming steps outside and wants to shoot jumpers, but it’s gone more toward the European style. The days of Patrick Ewing and Rik Smits and Kevin Duckworth and Robert Parish, those days are over, thanks to me.” When you sit back and think about what actually happened to the “traditional center”, Shaq is right. During his prime opposing teams had to find the type of player that could counter Shaq’s game and lead their team to victory.

Unfortunately father time has now caught up with Shaq and with the recent retiring of Lindsey Hunter he is officially the oldest player in the NBA. Truthfully Shaq is not the same player he was 10 years ago, he can’t average 30 points a game, grab 13 rebounds a game or command double teams like he used to, but the 2010-2011 Boston Celtics are not asking him to do that. The reason why Shaq’s numbers are perceived to be worse than they actually are is because over the years he has set the bar so high for his performance that anything less seems to be blown way out of proportion. During the 2009 NBA season, with the Phoenix Suns, Shaq averaged 17.8 points per game and 8.4 rebounds per game. He also shared All-Star game MVP honors with former teammate Kobe Bryant. Last year with the Cleveland Cavaliers (who had the NBA’s best record at 66-16) Shaq averaged 12.0 points per game and 6.7 rebounds per game and was often the second option on offense. Those are role player numbers and there are no two ways about it, but because of who he is or what he used to average these numbers are deemed terrible.

With the 2010-2011 NBA season right around the corner, the Boston Celtics are not looking at Shaq to solve any of their major problems. That is the difference between the Shaq that we saw last year and the Shaq we will see next year. Even in Cleveland Shaq was looked at as the second guy to LeBron James(“win a ring for the king”), but the Celtics already have a strong nucleus in place with Rondo, Pierce, Allen, and Garnett and are not depending on Shaq to carry them to the Finals. The Celtics as a team just need Shaq to capitalize off of Rondo’s penetration, grab a few rebounds, and alter shots on defense. For once in his long career Shaq will be able to play without the pressure of putting up big numbers every night.

Those who say Shaq will hurt the Boston Celtics are looking at the acquisition from the wrong angle. His play can only help the Boston Celtics. He takes up space which allows other Celtics to grab rebounds, which became a glaring weakness in the 2010 NBA Finals, and Shaq gives the Celtics a dependable post scorer who passes well out of double teams. Shaq is a warrior and I doubt he would still be in the NBA if he didn’t bring anything to the table. With the painful loss to the Los Angeles Lakers last year, all of the Boston Celtics are hungry for revenge. This year Shaq is on a team that knows how to win a championship and has the same drive that he does to win another NBA championship. Shaq wants to go out on top, that’s why he hasn’t retired yet and there is no doubt that the Celtics will help him reach that goal.

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