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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 28, 2007
Posted on: May 17, 2011 7:26 pm
 

Big Hurt: End of the line for a legend

really?is correcting grammer and spelling all you have?how about making a valid point on the subject?i live in w.v. and can almost see you being yet another beeer-swilling,tobbaco dipping,4 wheel drive truck driving hillbilly.1st off,wvu sucks!!! ,secondly,you are a moron.but,hey your not illiterate,so your ahead of the w.v. curve.how was my spelling?



Since: Sep 16, 2009
Posted on: May 12, 2011 12:21 pm
 

Big Hurt: End of the line for a legend

About time!



Since: Oct 20, 2006
Posted on: May 12, 2011 11:51 am
 

Big Hurt: End of the line for a legend

At Smurph... You gotta learn to spell before anything you say can be taken seriously... Dwayne is how you spell his name.  Secondley,

At GoCubsGo121...  I totally agree with you.  Gotta is not a word.  Should be "You have to".  "Secondley"?  Check your dictionary. "Sucess"? Again, buy a dictionary, and use it.  Also:

Secondley, the refs had nothing to do with his sucess, he was just the most dominating post-up center ever to play the game of basketball.
This is what's known as a run-on sentence.  It is actually two sentences. You would need a conjunction in order to make it one sentence.

How you got superstar status with idiotic comments like this is beyond me.
 I agree with you on this point.



Since: May 12, 2011
Posted on: May 12, 2011 1:52 am
 

Big Hurt: End of the line for a legend

Amazing stats, now consider this, there is little doubt in my mind he would have been the greatest player EVER had he not IDK, make a series of stupid movies, stupid records,stupid wrestling events etc , etc, and just focused on Basketball, that is what Ill remeber about the guy, when your the biggest guy on the court leaning on someone to push them out of the way and dunking from 6 inches away is not only unimpressive its boring, I became a fan when he started displaying some impressive footwork, which was about the time he decided he wanted to be a celebrity more than a baller, and although he continued to win for a few more years it was obviously down hill from there.
And a final point about Shaq which is something he shares with Kobe btw, Look at the talent that surronded him in the 97-98 season.
Van Excel, Jones, jon Barry, along with the hold overs to the chmpnshp years fox, horry, fisher, yet they got SWEPT by the jazz, and after the seriers he proceeded to blame everyone but himself "big man did his job" he said more than once, he couldnt win till he had the team mates he wanted , the coach he wanted, come on!! these faults will forever taint his greatness imo.



Since: May 12, 2011
Posted on: May 12, 2011 12:36 am
 

Big Hurt: End of the line for a legend

"emotionally draining to him more than you guys would know" how about pushing away from the dinner table without licking the plate clean!! He could easily have played this year AND next if he dropped the extra 30lbs hes been toting around his gut since 06



Since: May 24, 2010
Posted on: May 12, 2011 12:28 am
 

Big Hurt: End of the line for a legend

Where did they get this photo of Shaq actually checking into a game for the C's, or was this airbrushed from when he use to be able to play, perhaps in his Miami days.  On a serious note, great career, it was tough to watch it end like it did, hopefully Kobe's ends the same.



Since: May 4, 2011
Posted on: May 12, 2011 12:20 am
 

Big Hurt: End of the line for a legend

SHAQ should of called it quits 3 years ago but hay when teams are going to give you free money why not take it



Since: Dec 5, 2006
Posted on: May 11, 2011 10:26 pm
 

Shaq attack no more?

I have watched Shaq come into the league with a flair and such power that he changed the game for almost two decades. Once he fled Orlando and hit LA the West was scrambling to find enough big-man fouls to survive 48 minutes on the floor. But no matter what the opponents threw at him., Shaq scored, rebounded and defended better than anyone since Russell and Chamberlain. He will be remembered for the statistics he has amassed and the rings he has won. But i will remember him for his sense of humor as well. No matter where he was he brought his humor.

Is this the end of the post-up center in basketball? Well no. Most have written off Greg Oden but he his a doiminant post-up center. He does not have all the moves down yet but do not mistake his drive to emulate Shaq. He will return and will stay healthy enough to earn a ring or three.

Shaq has four rings. three with Koby and one with Dwyane. If Koby had not run him out of LA he might have one or two more. (OK -perhaps it was the reverse between Koby and Shaq. Only they know for sure.) You have to feel for Orlando who drafted Shaq and trained him, only to see him head off following the sun to LA. Now our friendly media folks are drumming up a second defection with Superman supposedly planning to head there as well. May iy never happen. Dwight is needed in Ortlando to keep some balance in the annual East race. What could be better than Dwight vs LaBron & Dwyane vs Derrick vs Deron vs Chris? different styles, different game, great watching for fans.

So long Shaq. We hardly knew you but had to enjoy you every time we saw you. Perhaps you will do some broadcasts (you are a natural). Thanks for the memories.



Since: Sep 4, 2010
Posted on: May 11, 2011 8:09 pm
 

Big Hurt: End of the line for a legend

Silly! 

As a rookie, O'Neal was instantly among the top six or seven players in the league!!!!!  (Not bad for somebody that was just big) When he entered the league, there were three dominant centers who where at the peak of their games.   I believe that they were Hakeem Olajuwon, PatricK Ewing and David Robinson.

It really did not take long for Shaq to pass the accomplishments of all three.  Now keep in mind they were not just three good players, they represented three the leagues all-Time best centers!!!!!

O'Neal led Orlando to the Finals in his third season!!!! i will say by 1998, O'Neal passed Ewing in the all-NBA First team selections and MVP votes.

Not shabby for someone that was just big!!!!

He clearly outplayed Ewing in their head to head meetings.  A Year later he was unstoppable in the play-off series against Olajuwon's Rockets.  Following the 1998 season Shaq's teams were 13-6 against both the rockets and spurs in the postseason.  The lakers swept David Robinson's team out of the play-offs in 2001 and defeated them in 4-1 in 2002.

My whole point is, in the first half of O'Neal's career, he surpassed the three best centers he had to overcome to be the best.  

NOT BAD FOR SOMEBODY THAT IS JUST BIG AND STRONG!!!


Lets talk about his Stats shall we?

He dominated the most important stats in the game of basketball.  His teams won more then any other!!! He led an expansion team into the finals at a record pace!! He led the Lakers, he scored more points than almost everyone else.  He pulled down more rebounds, he was one of the best passing centers, he annually lead the league in field goal percentage (And yes they were dunks and lay-ups) 

His first 11 seasons he ranked 8th, 2nd, 1st,3rd,2nd,2nd,1st,3rd,2nd and 4th (One year he did not play enough games to qualify)

Won lost record?  

Orlando was 21-61 the year before he arrived.

41-41 his first year.
50-32
57-25
60-22
56-22
61-21
31-19
67-15
56-26
58-24
50-32

His teams won 587 of 870 games in his first 11 years for a winning percentage of .674!!!!

Bill Russell was considered the greatest winning player of all-time! Now Shaq will obviously never match his championships,  but if you compared their first 11 seasons based on a 82 game season Shaq won an average of 56 games to Russell's 58.  

Now of course i am only talking the first 11 seasons of his career, but really that is all that counts when talking about his place in history. 

Not bad for a somebody that is only big and strong.

Silly statement. 

live and learn!!

 



Since: May 11, 2011
Posted on: May 11, 2011 6:31 pm
 

Big Hurt: End of the line for a legend

SMURPH:

Must wholeheartedly, unconditionally disagree w/you, partner

I’ll preface by adding our family, as lifelong-Portland Trailblazer Fans
Have had our collective NBA Finals hopes dashed by Shaq
Before & after 2000 Lake-Show, Game 7 WCF win over hometown Blazers
(Ill-famed, 15-PT Portland 4th-Q lead erased, will live forever in Blazers memory bank of horrors)
 
TRUE SHAQ STORY:
2001, my youngest (daughter, 5 at the time) somehow - even in Blazermania-ville, ‘Diesel’ Fan
Thus, during attendance at half-dozen or so Home Blazer Games
Standard family exercise always to arrive as gates open (used to be 90 Min prior)
 
In 2001, we had to make a Portland vs. 'Shaq' Game
Ventured courtside w/kids, hoping for a glimpse of a late shootaround or even a brief ‘meet-greet’
(Pity they have been limiting this more & more)
 
To our great surprise, Shaq singled out our 5-Yr old
After Shaq grabbed a ball like a grapefruit, he snatched up our kid w/hands-the-size-of-folding-chairs,
Carefully plopped here on those massive shoulders
& w/both gargantuan dude & our ecstatic little, pig-tailed blonde, BOTH grinning ear-to-ear
Headed to the rim to let her throw one down
 
Awesome
 
Woulda been more than enough
 
HAND-TO-GOD; MOST ASTONISHING PART:
 
The decade since, upon attending 13 additional 'Shaq-Games’, 6 w/floor access
SHAQ SPECIFICALLY REMEMBERED & CALLED OUR GIRL BY-HER-NAME!
 
Shaquille O'Neal is always one of the first 'OUT' (& cameras nowhere in sight)
Shaq runs out, sees 'little ones' & in all truthfulness: The guy PHYSICALLY 'lights-up'
You'd be hard-pressed to EVER find a more engaged, accessible, genuine, warm-hearted person
Whom just happens to be a professional athlete
His fun-loving, playfulness is really not just not an 'act'
 
I do not care if it sounds pretentious as it might sound
Our kids actively still playing/enjoying hoops in High School
My wife & can honestly attribute a small yet important aspect in
(Both our kids)  On-going interest in basketball,
To a kind-hearted, exemplary example set forth by Shaquille O'Neal
 
Say whatever you will about the man on the court
Yet, if you wish to debate merits & legacy
Of Shaquille O'Neal as a professional athlete,
I'd declare that Shaq personifies THE DEFINITION of a Role-Model:
A person that repeatedly, w/little or nothing personal to gain & practices countless acts of sincere kindness
 
IN OUR FAMILIES' DECADE + EXPERIENCE, SHAQUILLE O'NEAL IS A GOOD PERSON & JUST A VERY NICE MAN
 
We are pleased to have had acquaintance of Shaq
& Gratified he was role model to our kids
& the Association was well-served by Shaquille O'Neal
In my humble opinion
(This was the generic version; my wife REALLY thinks highly of the guy...lol)

Thanks. 


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com