Cohen: A Long, Interesting Career

By Josh Cohen
June 2, 2011

ORLANDO -- It’s somewhat intricate to nail down the preeminent, most accurate description of Shaquille O’Neal’s enthralling career in the NBA.

You can, on one hand, suggest Shaq was the league’s most superlative big man in history. For about 10 years – a few in Orlando, several in Los Angeles and a couple more in Miami – there essentially was no preventing the ferocious fellow from crushing opponents with his mammoth size and deceptive quickness.

Aside from his perennial All-Star status (15 appearances) and championship-conquering success (four NBA titles), O’Neal was so intimidating it almost felt at times like adversaries surrendered any time he planned on attacking the rim.

Younger generations or simply those that tend to judge more recent results, on the other hand, may remember Shaq for his final, dragged-out, droning and even ghastly years.

Particularly during his brief stays in Cleveland and Boston – two destinations that were supposed to be O’Neal’s last quest for championship glory – the aging center dealt with countless injuries that denied him from furthering his basketball accomplishments.

In reserve, however, of Shaq’s on-the-court performance was always his charismatic, generally humorous and sometimes controversial personality.

From practically Day One after the Magic drafted him first overall in the 1992 NBA Draft, O’Neal evolved into a fan favorite because of his comical nature and willingness to express his wide-ranging viewpoints about pretty much anything.

In spite of all the fun and games that he presented to fans from across the globe, which included movie roles and rap albums, Shaq also generated several contentious accounts throughout his career.

Most would say the hullabaloos began when the gargantuan big man decided to ditch Orlando for the Hollywood scene in 1996. While his assessment to leave caused rasping emotions and opinions in Central Florida, the verdict eventually transformed into a success for O’Neal as he was named the 2000 NBA MVP and captured three consecutive NBA championships while playing alongside Kobe Bryant in L.A.

Though Shaq already cemented his standing as an all-time great, it didn’t avert more controversy from entering his career.

Josh Cohen
Following a disappointing outcome in the 2004 NBA Finals when the Lakers lost to the Pistons in five games, it became notorious to the entire NBA universe that Shaq and Kobe were in turmoil and a split was necessary to sustain peace at STAPLES Center.

As a result, the Lakers decided to trade O’Neal to the Heat in one of the more blockbuster trades of the century.

More success came when Miami claimed the title in 2006, but also, more storms came as well.

The runner-up for the 2004-05 MVP award criticized current Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy for not calling enough plays for him after their one season together in Miami.

Though it wasn’t revealed until years later, Shaq stirred the pot when he labeled Van Gundy the “Master of Panic” in 2009, which became a hot media story at the time.

Hopefully, however, when everyone reflects on his career as an NBA player, Shaq is remembered for all of his remarkable achievements on the court rather than any of the surrounding controversies that stood next to him.

Inarguably, O’Neal is one of the top five centers in NBA history. Until his decline, Shaq averaged at least 20 points per game in his first 14 seasons.

It will be fascinating to see what ventures the big man experiments with now that he is retired. The feeling is, nonetheless, that Shaq will likely always remain in the spotlight because he is much more than just a former basketball player.

What will you remember most about Shaquille O'Neal's NBA career?
What will you remember most about Shaquille O'Neal's NBA career?
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