Ainge adds Shaq as Celtics stack to chase Banner 18
Some guys are large. And some guys are larger than life.
File Shaquille O'Neal, the Celtics' latest free agent signing, into the latter category.
O'Neal and the Celtics came to terms on a deal to bring the 15-time All-Star to Boston on Wednesday, and while O'Neal's role with the team in terms of basketball on the floor may not be that large, his presence in the city of Boston can't be overstated.
Shaquille O'Neal has been around the league long enough to have played against Celtics Hall of Famer Kevin McHale (seen here in 1993) and will bring his big game experience to the Celtics as they pursue their 18th World Championship.
O'Neal is one of the few iconic sports stars who transcends the NBA and pro sports. More than a household name, Shaq is an international sensation, a man with 3 million twitter followers, his own reality TV show (OK, maybe that's not a big deal these days), a few movies under his belt, and a personality that dwarfs the TD Garden. So even if O'Neal only gives the Celtics 10-15 minutes a night of playing time, his arrival made the type of big splash of which only few people in the universe are capable of making.
Doc Rivers released a statement Wednesday evening welcoming O'Neal to town, and the coach made it clear that O'Neal will bolster a team that came within a game of winning its second NBA Finals in three years.
"I am very excited. Adding a player like Shaq is a major plus and it fills a void for our team," Rivers said. "He's a real nice piece of the puzzle and he will compliment us in where we want to go this coming season."
While Shaq was a player you'd build a team around in years past, today the Celtics are looking for O'Neal to give them the extra size up front they lacked last season, especially after Kendrick Perkins went down in Game 6 of the Finals with a knee injury that will have him sidelined to start the season.
O'Neal, who battled Perkins in the paint during the second round of the playoffs last season, seems to be dialed into what his role will be alongside the Big Three and the rest of Boston's All-Star cavalcade, a group that now boasts a ridiculous 51 All-Star appearances.
"I am honored to be joining the Celtics," said O'Neal in the team's press release Wednesday. "I have played against Paul, Ray, Kevin, Rajon and Jermaine for many years and it will be great to be able to call them my teammates. I cannot wait to get to Boston to get started in pursuit of another championship."
While O'Neal spent his summer trying to hook on with a championship contender, and reportedly flirted with the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat, the rumors about joining the Celtics lingered for a few weeks before finally picking up steam in the last few days. Still, while there was interest in where O'Neal would land, he didn't need an hour-long special to make his mind up.
O'Neal is coming to Boston with one goal in mind, and that's winning at least one more ring before he hang up the size 23 sneakers and his newly minted No. 36 Celtics jersey. He said he wants to retire as a Celtic, leaving no doubt that this will be the last stop on a journey that's brought him four NBA titles.
Danny Ainge, who's spent his summer reloading the Celtics roster for another run at the title, didn't risk much bringing O'Neal to town, and ultimately, the payoff he's seeking is the same thing Shaq's been chasing for the last few seasons.
"Shaq knows what it takes to win," Ainge said. "Shaq has made it clear that he would do whatever it takes to help the team raise Banner 18, and we look forward to working towards that goal together."