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NBA Playoffs, Celtics Cavaliers Game 6: Shaq has plenty riding on this game, too

May 13, 2010, 2:41 PM EDT

Thumbnail image for ONeal_Dunk.jpgIn 10 years, we’re all going to really miss Shaquille O’Neal.

The player, I mean. Shaq the pop culture personality will still be around on one reality show or another. But on the court he’ll be missed, the classic bruising big body, but with amazing quickness for his size. In some ways, his legacy is already set there — the man has four rings and was the most dominant center of his generation. He’ll be mentioned with Wilt and Kareem and Russell.

But he’s still got a lot on the line — starting tonight.

Shaq’s ego still demands he best Kobe (that is a two-way street, right there). Both have four rings, one ring without the other. But Kobe is well positioned to pick up another one or two in the next few years — the Lakers are a well-stocked team.

Shaq is running out of time. He came to Cleveland to help (or ride the coattails) of LeBron James to a ring. Now they might not even get out of the second round. No rings in that. Shaq needs a win tonight to keep that dream alive.

And after this season, then what? He needs this win to keep the aura of Shaq the winner going, to help his bank account if nothing else.

O’Neal has said he wants to play until he’s 40. And frankly, he can. You’re not going to 82 games of focused play out of him (nobody ever did) but he came back from his injury this year in the best shape he has been in for a long while. In the crucial Game 5, he was the one Cavalier who showed up to play.

At the end of this season he will be a free agent. There will be interest in him. But the multi-million dollar question is:

How big a pay cut will Shaq accept?

This season he is making $20 million. He has made that much or more for the last nine seasons? But what is a part-time center of Shaq’s caliber really worth on the open market? Probably in the $7 million range — a little above the average NBA salary.

Would Shaq accept that? He might not have to — if these Cavaliers come back and win it all, he can claim he helped lead them, that you are paying a little more for a locker-room leader. A winner. Maybe in this economy, he shouldn’t bet on that, but it’s a pitch.

Regardless of what happens in Game 6 Shaq may well not be back in Cleveland. He slows down a team that should run more. The Cavs went out and got him because they needed to counter Dwight Howard (which if they lose tonight because the Celtics are just quicker will be ironic). Bottom line, whether LeBron James stays or goes, the Cavs need to revamp their roster and get younger.

There will be interest from teams around the league. Solid centers who can help with marketing have a place in the league. But that gig doesn’t pay what it used to — and Shaq is used to being paid for being much more than serviceable.

Unless he can still say he’s a winner. Because he has those five rings. But needs a win tonight for any of that.

  1. geezstring - May 13, 2010 at 4:19 PM

    To mention Shaq in the same breath as Wilt, Kareem, and Russell is just wrong. Shaq doesn’t have 50% of the “skills” of any of these guys. He just backs guys down, has all of his career. He is just BIG. He can’t shoot free throws and my thoughts are that if not for the LA powerhouse he played for he wouldn’t have 3 of his rings. To mention him as one of the top 50 players of all time is stupid – and so is Shaq. The final component is the stupid idea he stold from Steve Nash about challenging “athletes” in other sports. I know I am in a small minority that feels this way (actually maybe the only guys that feels that way) but that’s tough. In my book he’s not The Big Aristotle – he’s The Big Aristupid.

  2. lc johnson - May 13, 2010 at 4:24 PM

    geezstring you are a idiot,enough said

  3. fred - May 13, 2010 at 4:30 PM

    geezstring you need to learn the game before you talk about shaq! do your sound like an idiot…

  4. floydpink - May 13, 2010 at 4:35 PM

    The idea he “stold” from Steve Nash? Stupid is as stupid does.

  5. Knicks Fan - May 13, 2010 at 4:41 PM

    Geezstring you are crazy and I think the way Shaq has been playing he can probably put out another season. I don’t think Cleveland is going to pull it off tonight.

  6. geezstring - May 13, 2010 at 4:53 PM

    Fred, lets make a bet since you say I need to learn the game. I’ll bet that over 70% of Oneal’s points have been “stuffs” when he doesn’t have to make a shot. I have been watching basketball forever and Wilt, Kareem and Russell had more talent in their little finger than this guy. By the way guys – my IQ qualifies me as a genius not an idiot or crazy. I would not be surprised if Shaq gets a deal next year but he won’t win another ring no matter who he plays with.

  7. ILikeTurtles - May 13, 2010 at 5:10 PM

    Hey there Cheezestring, Ted Kaczynski had a high IQ (not saying too because you don’t sound very smart to me) and he was still crazy as all batzhit!

  8. yun1t0 - May 13, 2010 at 5:10 PM

    geezstring, you have no idea what you are talking about. If shaq has no skills, go get big 7 foot dudes put them in the weight room and tell them to lead a team to 3 championships. Shaq is one of the greatest just because he was real quick for his size, a great passer and smart on the court. If he had a “killer” attitude (a la Jordan, Kobe) he couldve won even more. But in my opinion his greatest flaw and attribute is he is a nice fun having guy. Because if he had a mean streak (a la Karl malone or barkley) he might have taken the head of someone with an elbow. Not all big men are as good as shaq, and the fact that you attribute his talent to his size is plain ignorant. But then again, not all people know the game but they think they do.

  9. Ryan - May 13, 2010 at 5:11 PM

    You obviously don’t know the history of the game. Bill Russell wasn’t exactly a scoring threat. He was an all-time great defender and rebounder, and that’s the reason he’s still talked about today. Wilt Chamberlain was great BECAUSE of his size, not his skill. He was the original big man. He didn’t average 50 points per season because of his skill–he did it because he could shoot over everyone else without batting an eye. Kareem had skill and size, no argument there.
    Shaq definitely deserves to be in this discussion. He got the better of Tim Duncan–a true skills player–year in and year out during the Lakers dynasty. He is a good defender against other bigs. Heck, even the league has changed how it calls big men because of him. Shaq, Dwight Howard, Yao Ming–they called differently now because Shaq was so dominant. An elbow used to be an elbow, not a foul. Now it’s a foul because he was so quick when it came to positioning his body that other centers were caught off guard.
    The man had/has skills. The size argument means very little (all centers have size, after all).

  10. Anonymous - May 13, 2010 at 5:13 PM

    geezstring is an idiot. Someone who can dominant the paint and “stuff” the ball over grown men is amazing, let alone 70% of the time. Don’t be jealous geezstring just because you can only dunk donuts.

  11. David - May 13, 2010 at 5:19 PM

    Geezstring, I would say that a 7 foot center should be dunking the ball, and not shooting jumpers or hook shots. Russell & Wilt played with guys smaller than them, with no 3 second rule.

  12. Charlie - May 13, 2010 at 6:00 PM

    If you watch Shaq develop over his carreer you can see that he is/was a very skilled player. He was very fast, very strong, very quick and very motivated. I remember hearing about him when he was just a 13 year old military brat in Europe and caught the eye of the LSU coach at the time, and convinced him to go to LSU even though it would be 4 years later.
    I agree with the comment that Shaq may be TOO nice a guy, maybe like Ralph Sampson or Tim Duncan. His size/weight/strength are a strong point, but they would mean nothing w/o his speed, quickness and ability. And even though everyone says he slows teams down now, during this series I’ve seen him run the court very well and if Cleveland had a better pg running the break, he could easily average 4 more points a game from dunks after trailing the fast breaks (being the fourth guy in a 3 on 2, everybody would open up and shaq could just blast down the lane, he can do that better than most other centers, maybe Tim Duncan / Howard are the only exceptions).

  13. Benthon! - May 13, 2010 at 6:34 PM

    Sorry boyz…I agree with geezstring. To put Shaq in the same category as Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlin ( to say nothing of Kareem!) is pretty thin. The height of these legends was only a facet of their entire game. They “played smart”,and added to their size (Russell 6’9″) with their skill. They also played when hurt a lot more than Shaq ever has.

  14. DieselDamage - May 13, 2010 at 6:34 PM

    Oh please… Shaq is part of the playoff problem in Cleveland. As the dimwitted writer didn’t realize, Shaq was ineffective until garbage time in the fourth quarter. In fact Shaq is absolutely stagnating the Cleveland offense as he clogs the lane, takes too much time with his touches, his inability to hit shots when pressured, and his awful free throw ability. It isn’t just age, it is that long layoff since late February when Glen Davis tore the ligaments in Shaq’s thumb.

  15. Cleareye - May 13, 2010 at 7:07 PM

    Shaq has always been overrated because he is a good story. Anyone who hasn’t learned how to shoot free throws after 15 years at the pro level has a serious emotional or intellectual deficiency. It’s embarrassing.

  16. 60yearoldfan - May 13, 2010 at 7:12 PM

    Actually, geezstring is correct in concept. Shaq was and is not a skilled player, but instead a talented player. He was so quick when he came in, he never bothered to learn the skills that others did. I saw Wilt, Russel and Kareem live. Wilt is the single most dominating center to ever play the game. He was the first 7 foot athlete to play in the NBA. He was so strong and quick, way beyond anyone his size. Russel was a great student, who was truly cerebral. Kareem was by far, the most skilled. You can disagree, but I was there.

  17. AJ - May 13, 2010 at 7:13 PM

    Your comparison does not add up. Kareem has 6 MVP’s, 6 NBA champions, 10 time 1st team all NBA, Russell 11 championships 5 MVP’s, Chamberlain 4 MVP’s and 2 titles. Shaq with one MVP and four titles is arguably behind Duncan who has 2 MVP’s and 4 titles. He is way behind Kareem and Russell, and arguably Chamberlain. Look at

  18. rd - May 13, 2010 at 7:18 PM

    geezstring stold someone else’s IQ test results

  19. Craig W. - May 13, 2010 at 8:05 PM

    If you haven’t seen these giants play you have very little to guide you in judging how they compare. Statistics just don’t tell the story – you can’t ignore them, but they aren’t like baseball. The NBA is truly a team game, dominated by stars. No individual, not Wilt, not MJ, was ever able to win it all on their own talent.
    Shaq was superbly talented, perhaps the most talent ever. However, he never developed his skills higher than he needed. He was lazy, not driven.
    To compare him to Russell, Wilt, or Kareem is to insult those individuals. They had both talent and drive. Wilt was the definition of dominance, not Shaq. Russell was the essence of the cerebral team leader. Kareem was simply off the charts talent and brains – too much so for the average sports fan – and knew how to take care of himself better than anyone before Kobe.

  20. buck rogers - May 13, 2010 at 8:08 PM

    Wat r u? Alien from another planet. Wat game u’v been watching.

  21. DJ - May 13, 2010 at 8:19 PM

    shaq, mentioned before tim duncan is my problem. mention them in the same breath because, though duncan isn’t the media machine that shaq is, no big man has more frustrated shaq-du than him. he is a beast. without a doubt. one of the top 5 big men….BUT i’d put duncan in a league above him in two areas. why? he plays a whole season, play offs and passes and gets double teams, knocks down j’s and yes, hits his free throws! did i say a whole season and hits his free throws? he is a defensive player as well though not as quick on his feet as he used to be.
    it’s like comparing wilt and bill. sure wilt put up the numbers but the one guy who always got with him was bill. if you take kobe out of la, then the spurs are probably the best team in the league and with a couple more rings.
    i love ’em both though. the two most important big men since kareem BUTTTTTTT….duncan has been THE most consistent. that said, shaq still gets a nod for top 5 centers just it’s a tie with him and duncan. rings, stats, impact…

  22. Jax - May 17, 2010 at 4:24 AM

    The writer said exactly what I was thinking. He hit every point that was in my mind.
    Shaq seriously needs to retire. Shaq is not on the level: Hakeem,Kareem,& Wilt.
    It’s sad that people mentions Wilt,Bill,Kareem,and Shaq but never mentions Hakeem in the same sentence. Anyone that watches basketball knows Hakeem had a better all around game than Shaq. The Dream dominated respectable Hall of fame greats:Shaq,Robinson,Ewing,and Alonzo (All in their primes) and won 2 rings.
    Shaq dominated in a weak era to get those rings.
    * Shaq and Russell are the most overrated centers of all time.

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