It’s impossible to ignore the dozens of things that Shaquille O’Neal accomplished in his 19 years as a professional basketball player. But it seems as if Big Shaq waited until after his playing days were over before setting out to accomplish something that’s never been done before. By the looks of things, Shaq is trying to become the first athlete in the history of professional sports to get booed during his own jersey retirement.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But that goes both ways. Shaq is entitled to proclaim Brook Lopez a better player than Dwight Howard just as the 20,000 Lakers fans inside of Staples Center next April are entitled to embarrass Shaq on national television by showering him with boos when his jersey is retired. For someone who was repeatedly described throughout his career as being ‘comfortable in his own skin’, he has to be the most sensitive athlete in the history of pro sports.
Shaq routinely called every team he was on ‘the most talented he’d ever been on’ and every coach ‘the best he ever played for’. And yet rarely ever left a team on good terms. In fact, he so perfected the art of burning bridges that he should have been dubbed “The Big Arsonist”.
I didn’t really have an issue with Shaq when he proclaimed Andrew Bynum more of a traditional big man than Dwight. While I didn’t agree with him, I couldn’t prove with certainty that he was only trying to jab Dwight. I’d even written in the past that Bynum had a more refined offensive game than Dwight. If he continued to try and make that case, I’d actually respect him more because it would prove he’s not going to just hitch his wagon to whomever the Lakers starting center is.
But to say that Brook Lopez is better than Dwight proves that Shaq’s pettiness isn’t going anywhere. He might be a member of the media now but that hasn’t prevented him from having an agenda, regardless of how stupid he sounds.
I was one of those people who chastised Shaq in the aftermath of his divorce with the Lakers. I didn’t like the way he threw Kobe under the bus when money proved to be a much bigger factor in his exit than anything Kobe may have said or done. He accepted zero responsibility in spite of the fact that he was the one who demanded a trade. But on the other hand, I wasn’t one of those people who cared that he signed with the Celtics two years ago. The fact that he was signing for the veteran’s minimum was way too funny for me to be angry. Nobody else wanted him.
I knew that the Lakers would retire his jersey one day and I’d be able to forgive, forget, and show my appreciation for what he did during an amazing run. But instead of taking this opportunity to turn the page and start anew with the organization and it’s fans, he’s now jabbing it’s newest star in the pettiest way imaginable.
Shaq needs to realize that time is running out for him to make amends with Lakers fans. The organization is too classy to hold a grudge. The fans, on the other hand, are a different story. Many of them have even turned on me for telling the truth. He’s got six months to keep his mouth shut or risk what might be the most soul-crushing and embarrassing moment of his entire career.
It would behoove him to reconsider his stance.