When watching the highlights of the Celtics 86-82 win over the Pistons last night, props to Ray Allen for hitting a shot to put us ahead after missing so many, I glared in amazement at what Shaquille O'Neal was able to do. Sure he had just 12 points and 12 rebounds, but the put backs, alley oops, and dunks, almost made me forget that this guy is about to turn 39. It made me wonder about Shaq possibly being in the argument for being the greatest NBA player of all time. And if he isn't in the argument now, could finishing his career with this Celtics team help to push him over the top?
We'll slow down a bit, because these kind of arguments tend to bring up a lot of issues. When you start talking about deciding the greatest player of all time in some particular sport, you get all sorts of reactions. Basketball is no different. In basketball you have multiple issues. How do you judge a big guy versus a fast guy? How do you judge a pure shooter versus an inside presence? It almost feels impossible to boil it down and just pick one guy. I guess that's why people automatically default to saying "Michael Jordan!" as fast as they can. Surely Kareem, MJ, Wilt, Kobe, The Logo, and Moses Malone enter the argument (maybe even Karl Malone?), but does anyone bring up Shaq?
Shaquille O'Neal is ranked 5th all time in points in the NBA, behind Kareem, Malone, MJ, and Wilt. He's almost 3,000 points back of that #4 spot, so it's safe to say he'll finish 5th when he retires. He's ranked 2nd in NBA history in field goal percentage, at 58.2%, only trailing former Bull/Spur/Celtic Artis Gilmore. Now I know that his percentage is high because of where he takes his shots from, but it's tough to argue against the greatness of anyone with that kind of FG%, no matter the shot chart. He's ranked 7th all time in blocks, and makes everyone tremble (even now) when they try to go around him for the layup.
We'll step away from the statistics and look at what he's accomplished. Shaq is a 4 time NBA Champion (5 time after this year) and 3 time NBA Finals MVP. He was the NBA MVP in 2000 and the NBA Rookie of the Year in 1993. He's a 15 time NBA All Star, a 2 time NBA scoring champion, and made the All- NBA first, second, or third team 14 times. He's a 3 time NBA All-Star game MVP, the 1994 FIBA World Championship MVP, and he's won two gold medals ('94 WC and '96 Olympics). He must have a big trophy room.
Let's step away from the court, and add to his greatness by recognizing his music and film career. His rap CDs include "Shaq Diesel," "Shaq Fu: Da Return," "You Can't Stop The Reign," and "Respect." He's appeard in many memorable (although, I'll point out that memorable doesn't mean good) movies like "Blue Chips," "Kazaam," "Good Burger," "Steel," "He Got Game," and more. How can anyone deny the greatness of a guy who released songs with titles like, "Blaq Supaman," "Strait Playin," "Biological Didn't Bother," and "Giggin On 'Em?"
Now, as the oldest active player in the NBA (thanks for retiring, Lindsey Hunter), Shaq continues to make an impact for one of the NBA's top teams. Despite working on turning 39, he's still a huge presence on the court, and has an opportunity to catch up to his rival Kobe in career Championships with the Celtics this season.
So, all I'm asking is that you include Shaquille O'Neal when you are engaged in a conversation about the greatest NBA player in history with your buddies at the local watering hole. He deserves it.
-- Sent from my Palm Prē