It’s sometimes nice to take a break from the Lakers’ current woes and remember better times. Today is one of those days with the news that Shaquille O’Neal will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer.
While Shaq played for 7 teams, he will be most remembered for his time with the Magic (who drafted him), the Heat (where he won a championship in 2006), and the Lakers where he spent more years than any other franchise and had his most success both as an individual and with a team.
But if you ask any Lakers’ fan, they will always think of Shaq as a Laker first and foremost.
In his 8 years with the Lakers, Shaq won his only league MVP, won 3 championships and 3 Finals MVP’s, was 1st Team All-NBA 6 times, and earned his only All-Defensive Team bids (2nd team three times). The Lakers enjoyed peak Shaq and I, for one, will never forget it.
People often look back to the summer of 1996 as the year the Lakers got Kobe AND Shaq, noting the amazing haul of getting two players of that caliber at the same time. But if we’re being completely honest, that summer was really about Shaq. Kobe being the first preps-to-pros guard and the potential he oozed was obviously a big deal, but Shaq was already that guy. He was in the Finals two years prior and was in the Conference Finals months before coming to the Lakers.
The Lakers were getting one of the best players in the league and he was only 24 years old. When I look back at that picture of Shaq holding his Lakers’ jersey at his introductory press conference while standing next to Jerry West, I still get chills. That picture, at the time and now, signals a leap forward in organizational prospects. It represents the raising of the team’s ceiling from fun playoff team to potential championship contender.
Which is exactly what they became. It took the growth of Kobe and the bringing in of Phil Jackson, but those early 2000’s Lakers were the realization of dreams which started when Shaq signed with the team. Yes there were disappointments both before an after those runs, but the highs achieved during that period will live with me forever. And none of it happens without Shaq.
So I will forever be grateful for the big fella. He didn’t always do things the way I’d like and I wish some of the team dynamics (which don’t just fall on him) would have been different — especially during his last couple of seasons with the team. But those feelings pale in comparison and lasting effect to the ones I have for all the good which came from him deciding in 1996 he would join the Lakers.
Shaq, ushered in the next version of the Lake Show when he left Orlando and came to LA. As gifted a big man as we’ve ever seen. Unbelievable strength, agility and quickness. Arguably the most dominant force ever to play. In the Shaq/Kobe war i was always a Kobe fan but as time has passed i have grown to appreciate him. The only issue many ever had with Shaq was his lack of work ethic and the lack of work on his game. He relied on the incredible athleticism he possessed and did little to elevate his game with the hard work that should have made him the best ever. Even so he is on the pantheon of greatest centers ever. Well Done Big Man
Chris J says
I’m glad you mentioned that photo. I recall seeing a news snippet of he and West, holding up the Lakers jersey while I was in the middle of a presentation. I got so distracted I yell out, “Yesssss!” — much to the chagrin of my colleagues at the time. Pure joy, and Shaq didn’t disappoint in bringing Larry O’Brien back to Los Angeles for three straight seasons.
I only wish he and Kobe could have seen eye to eye sooner; there may have been one or two more parades down Figueroa Street.
I respectfully submit that Shaq did a lot of work on his game. That incredible footwork of his didn’t just happen!
Baylor Fan says
My favorite Shaq memories were anytime he played against David Robinson. He would absolutely punish him backing in for baskets. Robinson would bounce off of him while trying to hold his position. My second favorites would be Shaq running the break with the Magic. Someone that big and strong should not have been that athletic. Given how hard Kobe has worked to keep in basketball shape, it is easy to see how he would have been frustrated by all the weight Shaq put on during his Lakers’ career. It is a tribute to Shaq’s greatness as a player that he adapted his game to keep playing at such a high level.
My favorite matchup was Shaq vs Sabonis. I would have loved to have seen Sabonis play in his prime. When Shaq was in his prime every team wanted a big guy like Sabonis who could hold the floor against Shaq. Shaq’s presence in the league just really skewed the balance for the need of true Centers.
From a previous thread.
PEOPLE KEEP TALKING ABOUT WHITEISDE, no way is he worth a max deal when Cousins is in the wings begging to come to the Lakers…..
Whiteside is a free agent — the only cost is caps pace. Boogie would take this year’s #1 (assuming we keep it) plus Randle or Russell. Most would feel that is too big of a price to pay. I agree.
While Whiteside is a benign headcase, Cousins is a much more disruptive force in the locker room and with management. The Lakers as currently constructed do not have the organizational stability to keep him in line. We’d be exactly like Sacramento.
I’d pass on Boogie.
“We have Shaq and nobody else does”
Congrats to the big fellow! His dominance plunked the entire league to the point where the NBA changed the rules to allow zone defenses. One could argue that rule change has contributed mightily to the current league wide obsession with the three point shot as teams try to space the floor to defeat packed in defenses. Shaq’s influence is still being felt.
My favorite memories of Shaq is of the frustration he created in other players. Shaq made grown men cry! He was simply unguardable by any one man. Truly a great, great player. Definitely a first ballot Hall of Famer.
It’s fitting that one of the great big men is going into the Hall with Allen Iverson, one of the greatest little men ever to play the game. The selection of both players is well deserved.
Shaq newspaper clippings, of him in action, he always had an intense look with his tongue barely sticking out.
Shaq had that first step and spin move in the post unguardable
love hate with Shaq as I identified with Kobe so much more, but only a fool would fail to appreciate his contributions. It’s just too bad that he could not hit his FT’s in the game and that he couldn’t stay in shape – but I don’t entirely blame him with the nutrition/science back then as well as just the toll it would take on a body like his just to keep in shape.
Also, amazing run we had from Shaq & Kobe to Kobe & Gasol… if only we got Chris Paul (still not over it… the longer our current draught, the longer I’ll dwell on it)…
A Horse with no name says
I got the news that Shaquille had signed with the lakers while driving a convertible. At the next red light, I popped it in park, and quickly stood up and raised my arms like a nut job before regaining my wits and sitting back down as the light turned to green… Other drivers stared and one honked–I didn’t care–I knew championships were on the way.
Meant to say “punked the entire league.”
Off-topic: apparently Byron will go with a youth movement the rest of the season. Clarkson and Russell will play about 35 minutes per game and Tarik Black will also get some burn.
Lou Williams and Brandon Bass will sit the next 6 games while the kids get the majority of the minutes.
Probably not a bad thing. Here’s the link:
Thanks to mid wilshire
I never heard of, thon maker, until your post.
Watching videos, insane, he’s mostly playing scrubs, but to watch a 7’1 player do a 360 dunk in a game, wow. He also did a dribble spin to layup around a defender. The guy looks fast and very athletic, he can pass and shoot 3s, can’t say I’ve seen many 7 footers move like that. There was a video, skal vs thon, and skal schools him. I’m wondering why he didn’t play college ball, all the footage is limited to high school gymnasiums. He looks way beyond bragen bender though.
Shaquille was a beast and yet so freaking agile for a guy of his stature. One of my favorite plays from him was him crossing over Jerome James (Sonics center) from the baseline and going in for the dunk. He electrified the crowd so many times and I think Kobe fed off of that and took over the throne years after Shaq left.
Of course Shaq was the most frustrating player also because he truly could’ve been the best center of all-time if he truly wanted to be. Anyways I’m glad he is being recognized for the HoF…the guy is top 3 center of all-time in my opinion and he was the most dominant basketball player from 2000-2002, so congrats to him!
@matt: thon is the real deal, clear cut #1 to me
Btt: as a lakers fan first and foremost, i really dont care about that kobe/shaq beef at all….they brought 3 chips, thats what will always stick with me…most dominant 1-2 punch ever, even better than magic/kaj in my opinion
Very deserved induction!
J C says
Shaq was a larger than life, freak of nature.
Fun-loving and goofy at the same time.
Nobody else like this guy.
Incredibly gifted athletically and still a human teddy bear.
Three rings with Kobe – probably could have been more but, oh well.
Btw – NCAA finals game?
Shaq in movies. Lol
Grown ups 2
Shaq on tnt, opposite end of Barkley
Shaq in music, shaq-fu
Shaq quotable “can you dig it”
Darius Soriano says
Everything I have read about Thon Maker is that he’s not ready for the NBA & that his future success is more a question than a sure thing. Here’s a sampling: http://www.si.com/nba/2016/04/05/thon-maker-nba-draft-analysis-prospects
The reports I’ve read usually have Maker going late 1st round. General consensus being that he only played so so in various exhibitions and that he is really skinny. Although his highlight films show a great deal of potential just likely down the road. It’s possible the Lakers get a shot at him with their early 2nd round pick. I have penciled in on my own wish list the Lakers drafting a Center in the 2nd round with Zizic topping my wish list.
A Horse With No Name says
Thon Maker is more imagined than real. He has looked pretty wooden in various camps–not a fluid or effective player at this point. Yes, someone will take a flyer on him–but it won’t be the Lakers–their scouting is better than that.
Chris J says
There’s no way in hell anyone should be using a lottery pick on Maker, particularly not the Lakers if choosing in the top three. They need someone who can step in and contribute in years one and two. He seems too raw to over that kind of optimism.
My two cents…
Shaq destroyed both The Admiral and Duncan. He’s the most dominant player of his era, including when MJ was in the league.
2001 WCF when he froze up Spurs’ twin towers was the biggest moment that I will always remembe….