Shaq isn't going quietly.
Good for him.
Better for us.
You must understand something. I've been doing this sports writing thing for some time now, and rants like this come around once in a lifetime.
This is what we call an all-timer.
I stand in awe of Shaq's eternal gifts. This must be recorded for posterity, which is why I will set it up and give you the full transcript (minus the expletives), courtesy of the Arizona Republic, a fine news organization which also recognized the historic nature of Shaq's performance. This was Paul Bunyan picking up and ax and cutting down every tree in sight. With one mighty swing, Shaq chopped down Stan Van Gundy, his brother Jeff, Dwight Howard, AND Patrick Ewing.
I'm not worthy.
Here we go: After O'Neal fell down in an attempt to draw a charge from Howard Tuesday night, Stan Van Gundy pulled a wrinkled Coaching 101 handbook from his back pocket and said: “I was shocked, seriously, shocked. And very disappointed, because he knows what it’s like. Let's stand up and play like men, and I think our guy did that tonight.”
Nice try, Stan.
Before the Suns played the Heat in Miami Wednesday night -- Shaq's first return since he was traded to the desert 13 months ago -- he was asked if he had any reaction to Van Gundy's comments. Never has a soft ball been tossed so perfectly.
Shaq's response, as reported by Paul Coro of the Republic:
"(Howard) came with the same old, stale Patrick Ewing move, so I tried to stand there and take the charge. The new rules say if you come through, you fall. But as I fell, I realized that it was a flop and it reminded me of Coach Van Gundy’s whole coaching career. The one thing I despise is a frontrunner. First of all, none of his players like him. When it gets tough, he will become the master of panic like he did before and he will quit like he did before. The one thing I despise is frontrunners. Yeah, he’s got a young team playing good, but don’t be a frontrunner. Him and his brother and even the legend on the bench ain’t done what I’ve done in my whole career. So flopping would be the wrong choice of words.
"I just tried to take a charge. The ___ rules say you can’t stand there and get hit. You’ve got to fall. The ____ got the same old stinking move that Patrick Ewing has been doing his whole career. I went down, got up and didn’t complain. I see him and Stan complaining the whole game because they’ve got to. Remember, I’ve done more than him, his brother, and Patrick Ewing.
"Stan Van Gundy reminds me of a broke navigational system. He knows everything about everything but ain’t never been nowhere. Think about that. If I’m right here and I type in the address of where you’re going, I know where it’s at but I’m not going there.
"When a bum says some ___ about it and I respond, you can ___ cancel that because I know how he is in real life. We’ll see when the playoffs start and he ___ panics and quits like he did when he was here (in Miami). And you ___ print it just like that. Do I look soft to you like you can say something and I’m not going to say something?
"Notice they didn’t play me straight up. We’ll see how far they go because I know Stan. I said this a long time ago, but I was actually talking about him: 'When the general panics, the troops will panic.' Like in business, when the head panics and takes out all his stock, what happens?
"All the players hate him. The players don’t even like him. I hate frontrunners. I really do. I don’t like any frontrunners. There’s a pecking order involved. I’ve been there six times.
"I ain’t going to let no bum like him rip me and not say anything back. You can cancel that ___ all the way. Usually, I let ___ go. Not that. Not him. Hell no.
"The rules say when a guy goes through your chest you’ve got to fall to get the call. It was a flop. You’ve watched me play for 17 years. I don’t play like that.
"I’m not going to sit around and let nobodies take a shot at me and he is a nobody to me. And if he thinks he can get in a little press conference and take shots at me like I’m not going to (say) something back, he’s got another thing coming."
Ladies and gentlemen, Shaquille O'Neal. Enjoy him while he's still here.
The Shaq farewell tour has kicked it up a notch. When the Suns visited the Knicks in January, I asked Shaq if Howard was the closest thing he's seen to the Next Shaq. "No," he said ."He's a good player, but everything he's done, I've invented. So I'm not impressed."
Then came the clowning around at All-Star weekend, the pre-game dance ritual, the reflective comments -- Shaq soaking it all in, recognizing this was probably his final All-Star Game.
Since the All-Star break, he's averaging 22.1 points and 8.4 rebounds in a single-handed attempt to raise the Suns from the dead. He might just do it. After Shaq led the Suns to a victory over Kobe Bryant's Lakers on Sunday with 33 points and seven rebounds, he said, "It's what I do. I've been doing this since 1992. If you don't believe it, Google me."
Shaq turns 37 Friday. Happy birthday, big fella. Glad you're still here.