Blog Entry

Big Hurt: End of the line for a legend

Posted on: May 11, 2011 1:27 pm
Edited on: May 11, 2011 1:53 pm
 
MIAMI – The end comes fast sometimes, and Shaquille O’Neal has reached it. Just like that, on a sunny Wednesday morning in South Florida, one of the giants of the game arrived at the finish line. Or rather, the finish line arrived at him.

Shaq didn’t retire Wednesday or suffer some unmistakably career-ending injury. There was no farewell news conference, no roast in a fancy banquet hall somewhere. But Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who’d hoped against hope that one of the best centers who ever lived might give him something – anything – in this playoff series against the Heat, said the words that needed to be said. They are the words that no legend wants to hear, words that no coach wants to have to muster the courage to say. But Rivers said it, right there in front of a black curtain in a staging area of American Airlines Arena, in the hours before Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

In so many words, Rivers said Shaq is done. Finished. Can’t play anymore. One of the last true post-up centers still roaming the Earth has reached the end. Through nobody’s fault but Father Time’s, Rivers had to admit Wednesday that the Celtics’ experiment with the Big Shamrock was a Big Failure.

“Yeah, there’s just nothing he can do,” Rivers said. “It’s not like he’s not trying. I told our team that yesterday. He’s done everything you possibly can do to get healthy. Unfortunately for him, he just hasn’t been able to do it. When he was originally injured, no one even thought it was that serious. … I think I remember saying it was no big deal, that he’d be back in four or five days. But it just never healed and it still hasn’t, and now every time he plays, it gets worse. There’s just nothing you can do about it, and we haven’t, really.”

And with that, an admission from Rivers that the Celtics have given up hope that any more treatment or hours on the exercise bike will make a difference. In all likelihood, O’Neal logged the last 12 minutes of his career in this series, scoring one basket, grabbing no rebounds, and committing four fouls. Like the last living member of a species facing extinction, O’Neal propelled himself forward until he literally could not move anymore.



It is not the first time Rivers, one of the great protectors of players and their egos in the coaching business, has had to deliver such grim news. 

“I had Patrick Ewing in his last year in Orlando, and I played with him,” Rivers said. “And I was the coach telling him, ‘We’re not going to play you anymore.’ That’s an awful position, because what makes them great is their pride. Even when they’re barely walking, in their minds they still think they can actually change the outcome of a game. And sometimes you have to be the one to tell them they can’t. And that’s very tough.”

After 19 seasons, O’Neal, 39, has one year left on a $1.4 million player option for next season. On a steady decline since his last productive season in 2008-09 with Phoenix, it is difficult to imagine O’Neal earning that money on the court. For an icon of his stature, pride and going out with dignity mean more than a seven-figure pay day – especially if you’ve already made close to $300 million in your career, not to mention hundreds of millions in endorsement money.

“You can never take away anything he’s done in this game as a champion, the way he set the blueprint for guys like Dwight Howard on and off the court,” said Dwyane Wade, who shared the 2006 NBA title with O’Neal. “He’s a living legend. It’s unfortunate you get to a point in your career where you have to be hawked by injuries.”

The guy sitting next to Wade at the interview table played one season with Shaq, and also had his differences with the big fella. When I asked Wade and LeBron James to weigh in on this being the end of the line for one of the NBA’s greats, James put his head in his hands offered silence. After Wade volunteered to go first – “Since I played with him first,” he said – James also took a crack at summing up one of the most dynamic figures the NBA has ever seen.

“Talk about someone who does it on both sides of the floor, and on and off the court, he did it as far as using his personality to get out to the world,” James said. “He made fans believe they were one with him. … If he was a complete stranger and you saw how big he was, you wouldn’t be afraid to go talk to him because you saw how likeable he was and how his personality was, how outgoing he was. Definitely like D-Wade said, he laid the blueprint for a lot of people, not only on the court, but off the court. Still to this day, he’s still a great person and it’s unfortunate, like D-Wade said, when you get to a point in your career where you have injuries.”

Whatever happens to the Celtics, Rivers said Shaq should “walk away for the summer and then decide what he wants to do.” But O’Neal has reached the point where the decision is out of his hands. Time stands still for no one, no matter how many championships (four), All-Star appearances (15), or nicknames (countless) he has.

“I just know that this has been emotionally draining to him, more than you guys would know,” Rivers said. “He feels awful about this because this is why he came here, to get to the playoffs and then play in the playoffs. And then not being able to do that has really hurt him.”

At training camp in Newport, R.I., many months and miles ago, O'Neal recalled his offseason phone calls to the Celtics' Big Three before signing with Boston.

"I basically was like, 'Help me help you,'" O'Neal said. "So I'm gonna help them get two and I'm gonna get five."

A few weeks later, in the locker room at Madison Square Garden, O'Neal declared the era of the dominant center a thing of the past.

"The days of Patrick Ewing and Rik Smits and Kevin Duckworth and Robert Parish, those days are over," O'Neal said. "Thanks to me.”

It turns out he was right, though a few months early. 
Comments

Since: May 4, 2010
Posted on: May 11, 2011 6:15 pm
 

Big Hurt: End of the line for a legend

What if Shaq was healthy for the playoffs? Would it make a difference? Absolutely 100%. The biggest issue with the Celtics, since the departure of Perkins is that they have limited inside play. Now we all know Shag is not Jack Sikma or Kareem however he creates a prescence. I just could not see Bosch (who is way over rated) matching up with Shaq on the offensive or defensive side. Furthermore if Shag was in the middle you would not see Wade and Lebron driving aggessively to the hoop. Unless he makes a miraculous recovery I guess we will never know.......



Since: Sep 4, 2007
Posted on: May 11, 2011 5:49 pm
 

Big Hurt: End of the line for a legend

smurph....without Shaq, Kobe only has 2 rings and Dwade has 0.  Your observation that he was big means what?  So because he was big then it takes away from what he did and what he meant to the NBA?  We might as well only allow people under 5'4" if that would be acceptable to you.  Anyone who says that he wasnt a force of nature when he hit the NBA is either 13 and under or delusional.  On top of all that how can you speak ill of someone who has done as much as he did and does for children?  No one said to nominate him for sainthood. 



Since: Apr 29, 2011
Posted on: May 11, 2011 4:59 pm
 

Big Hurt: End of the line for a legend

At Smurph-- Shaq is one of the few people in the history of baskeball who could change the entire landscape of a conference by switching teams.  In his prime, he was basically unstoppable in the post.  He was so dominant in the post that coachs could not defend him so they did the only thing they could do: foul him. Look at the numbers, Orlando went from winning around 70% of their games when he was there, to winning around 50%.  The lakers went from winning around 40-50% of their games before he arrived to 60-70%.  Yes, he couldnt make free throws, but neither could bill russell or wilt so that arguement is weak.  You also said he was just big, well there are a lot of big guys out  there who dont make it, just look at oliver miller and big country! So he wasnt just big, he was big, powerful, and skilled!



Since: Apr 14, 2009
Posted on: May 11, 2011 4:26 pm
 

Big Hurt: End of the line for a legend

At Smurph... You gotta learn how to spell before anything you say can be taken seriously... Dwyane is how you spell his name. Secondley, the refs had nothing to do with his sucess, he was just the most dominating post-up center to ever play the game of basketball. Without Shaq, who was one of the best, Kobe doesn't get those 3 rings in a row, and Dwyane doesn't get his ring. Just look at the Heat or Lakers right after they lost Shaq... look at what they needed to do to become Championship ready again. You comment is so obviousley biased and without logic that you must not be a true NBA fan who actually watches. How you got to superstar status with idiotic comments like this is beyond me.




Since: May 11, 2011
Posted on: May 11, 2011 4:21 pm
 

Big Hurt: End of the line for a legend




Since: May 11, 2011
Posted on: May 11, 2011 4:21 pm
 

Big Hurt: End of the line for a legend




Since: Oct 16, 2010
Posted on: May 11, 2011 3:45 pm
 

Big Hurt: End of the line for a legend

I agree that his size is what made his presence in the sport but his personality  on and off the court is what made Shaq the real icon he is. A kids hero from the start with sound and responcible charactor and charisma unmatched in todays me,me,me premadonnas. Say what you want but I'll take a big over grown overpaid underachiever with those credentials any day !!!



Since: Oct 16, 2010
Posted on: May 11, 2011 3:44 pm
 

Big Hurt: End of the line for a legend

I agree that his size is what made his presence in the sport but his personality  on and off the court is what made Shaq the real icon he is. A kids hero from the start with sound and responcible charactor and charisma unmatched in todays me,me,me premadonnas. Say what you want but I'll take a big over grown overpaid underachiever with those credentials any day !!! 



Since: Oct 20, 2006
Posted on: May 11, 2011 3:21 pm
 

Big Hurt: End of the line for a legend

Wow, really?  This egotistical, skilless, gigantic, fat human is your hero and role model?  You heard he lost his policeman badge, right?  He was one thing - big.  Couldn't make a free throw.  Shooting range was 5 feet, and in, until he got old and fat.  Then he couldn't even make a 5-footer.  The refs changed the rules, so he could use his huge arms to knock the defender out of the way and then dunk the basketball.  He was the one mostly responsible for turning pro basketball from a beautiful, athletic game, to a hybrid of Sumo wrestling. And what a crybaby.  On those rare occassions where the refs would actually call a foul on him for nearly decapitating an opponent, he whines like a 3-yr-old.  Duane Wade and Kobe won those championships for him, along with accomodating refs.



Since: Oct 29, 2010
Posted on: May 11, 2011 2:54 pm
 

Big Hurt: End of the line for a legend

My wife was in tears to see Shaq running up and down the court last week agains miami,  I was hurt as well.  Thanks Doc for telling my sons hero like it is. when I lived in Orlando years ago I remember shaq doing so much for the people in the community, He did it all from the heart.  I remember once in the news in orlando it was all over the news that shaq's american express was declined at a store, and i thought to myself it doesn't surprise me to see a big company like american express taking poeple as an account number a not the person whom they have as a client comes to show when people or comapnyies get too big they forget who or what they are but not Shaq he always new were he came from and who he was.  You are my hero buddy.  There will never be no other.


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