Archive 75

Shaquille O'Neal

By Shaun Powell·

In 1992 the NBA welcomed a player who was part man, part child, part diesel, part force, part gentle, part serious, part comedy and all Shaqadocious. The game would never be the same.

Shaquille O’Neal -- and all of his different personas -- was a hit right from the start when he showed all of his personality and basketball skills prior to the ’92 draft in a memorable interview with Ahmad Rashad. In this televised piece, which gave us a preview of Shaq and what would transpire over the next few decades, nothing was spared. Not even the backboard.

Shaq wasted no time displaying the dominating low-post presence that would define his career. Not only was he the primary option offensively for the Orlando Magic, he had an answer for any opposing team or player who dared challenge him at the other end of the floor. On a memorable night at the Meadowlands in New Jersey, Shaq stood tall in the paint, registering the biggest block party in the state.

Shaq was a quick study, and he had no choice. That’s because the anticipation and expectations for him as a rookie were so steep and thick. It was almost unfair to a degree; the usual rookie grace period was tweaked for saviors such as him. And it didn’t matter. Shaq accepted those terms and fulfilled all the early promise. He didn’t want a learning curve. He wanted instant stardom.

Shaq was a one-man show. The package was irresistible. He had unfathomable size that made him intimidating, and a playful personality that made him endearing. He was a great player, a franchise-maker. And he was a people person, always wanting to walk out the front door instead of looking for a rear door exit. The combination gave him world-wide fame on a nickname-only basis: He was, simply, Shaq. He uplifted a young franchise in Orlando, and then transitioned to the only city that could be his perfect match -- Los Angeles, of course.

The turn of the century was also the turning point for Shaq. He had stardom, all the trappings of fame, a string of solid seasons behind him and plenty of respect. But he wasn’t a legend, because legends create history and win championships and set an undeniable pace for themselves. Something had to change, and it started with the coach. When Phil Jackson joined the Lakers he challenged his big man, who accepted the responsibility and all that came with it. Shaq wanted to be a legend and was willing to pay the price, starting now.

Don’t let the size fool you. From the heart, Shaq saw himself as someone still in his teens, searching for a good time, anxious to spread laughter for himself and those in his company. He had nicknames for himself and for others. He could bust a move on the court and while holding a microphone. Shaq was a basketball player first, an entertainer second. And he embraced both vocations.

For three straight years at the turn of the century, no one stood taller than Shaq. He was the game’s most dominant player and biggest winner. The Lakers were unbeatable in the NBA Finals during that time, and it was because their center would not and could not be stopped. He specialized in trophies, rings, and parade speeches. Can you dig it?

Did any camera have a lens wide enough to capture Shaq? Well, strange but true, he was small enough to fit in a snapshot. And there were many throughout his career, from start to finish, portraying the player and the man and the fun-loving character in all of his glory. The Shaquille O’Neal photo album is quite thick, as you might imagine, and every bit colorful and vivid.

If you hate dunks, facials, posterizations, tomahawks, swats, glares, grimaces, blind passes, alley-oops, up-and-unders, spins, shattered backboards, diesel horns and the sight of a specific big man doing very Shaqtastic feats, this sizzle reel is not for you. Which would put you in a very small group. Shaquille O’Neal provided so much material for the camera, all of it delicious. Here is the big man feasting throughout a career that carried plenty of weight, so to speak, and the highlights expected of someone who won multiple MVPs and trophies and plenty of fans.