Wednesday, February 13, 2008

You Fat Bastard

With Shaquille O'Neal getting ready to make his debut as a Phoenix Sun, and bring the Showtime Lakers offense to the desert, I felt like it was time for me to say something.

I'm really starting to dislike Shaq.

I know that's not exactly earth-shattering news considering the fact that the Big Malingerer doesn't even know I draw breath, but I felt it needed to be said.

It's kind of weird disliking Shaq. I've always been amazed at his raw athletic ability, I've chuckled at his funny anecdotes and it's been a firm belief of mine that he's much more intelligent and calculating than sportswriters give him credit for being.

But, Thick-ems is getting on my bad side.

To be honest, he crossed over to the bad side a few years back when he hooked up with D-Wade after pouting his way out of La La Land. See, right after O'Neal latched on to Wade, he gave one of the funniest and most memorable quotes of all-time.

When asked by reporters how his relationship with Wade was going to be different from failed pairings with Penny and Kobe, Shaq compared the trio to the Corleone brothers from the Godfather. Kobe was the uber-aggressive Sonny; hotheaded and unable to compromise. Penny was the spineless Fredo; constantly seeking validation and willing to betray his own brother to get it. And Wade was Michael.

It was a great quote. I'm sure every reporter within earshot chuckled at O'Neal's comments and couldn't wait to add that nugget to their copy. It had the ring of truth to it, although his comment about the vastly underrated Penny did make me mutter one "aww, that ain't right" at the time.

But, now I view that comment much differently. Looking back, it seems much more egregious that Shaq would assign Penny the role of Fredo. Anyone familiar with the Godfather knows exactly how despicable and fragile a character Fredo was. It seems ridiculous that O'Neal would bestow this label on Penny considering Shaq was the one who was too egotistical to share the spotlight with Anfernee, not the other way around. It's a slick reversal of roles, a quick zig zag that easily threw the media pack off the true trail.

O'Neal's labeling of Kobe raises the same questions. Was Kobe really the hot-headed one on those championship Lakers teams? After all, Kobe wasn't the one directing outbursts of profanity towards his boss, or petulantly pouting in the off-season to make a point about his touches. Kobe may have developed some of those characteristics later, but in the beginning it was Shaq who was making grandiose statements to the media about his own greatness, quietly denigrating Kobe in private and then calling him his "little brother" in public.

More importantly, by using that Godfather analogy Shaq placed himself in a position of judgment. He positioned himself as Vito Corleone, the powerful and intelligent Don quietly pulling the strings while his sons find their way. He made it clear that while his skill set may be diminishing, he still calls the shots on any team he plays on.

Recently, Bill Walton accused Shaq of faking an injury so that he could force his way out of Miami due to the Heat's putrid record. As is his wont, Shaq responded with a pithy comment that both belittled Walton's career and reinforced the notion of Shaq's greatness.

It was a masterful stroke by a public relations legend, and it moved the national conversation away from an in-depth analysis of Walton's comments, to a debate about whether Walton had an over-inflated view of his own career. Shaq followed that up by telling reporters that he was looking forward to playing with Steve Nash because he hadn't had an easy shot in six years.

Both incidents only verified my earlier suspicions about O'Neal.

There is no doubt that Shaq is one of the most talented and dominant centers to ever play the game. He is a proven winner and in his prime was the type of player that GMs sacrifice babies to acquire. Yet, despite all those amazing gifts he still seems to lack empathy, and displays an unwillingness to subjugate his ego for any team concept.

So, even if Shaq becomes Kareem and the Suns win a championship, my feelings of Shaq have changed forever. See, I've finally figured something out.

The fat bastard seems to play on a team of one.

1 comment:

awb said...

Great post.

You noticed also how Shaq deflected what was a reasonable observation by Walton. Sure Walton is a blowhard, but it doesn't mean he was wrong.

Shaq will always have the public hoodwinked about his true personality because he has a cadre of media personalities willing to overlook and whitewash it.

Raving Black Lunatic