Lakers Now

Round-the-Clock Purple and Gold

« Previous Post | Lakers Now Home | Next Post »

Shaquille O'Neal's retirement brings reflections on his legacy with the Lakers

47477933

One of the first messages Shaquille O'Neal received from Phil Jackson consisted of both a compliment and a challenge.

"I told Shaq when I took over as head coach in our first initial meeting as a team that the MVP trophy should be named after him when he retired," Jackson recently told Fox Sports' Mark Kriegel.

The message spoke both to Shaq's nearly unstoppable stature. His 7-foot-1, 325- pound frame provided a physical presence that proved difficult to stop inside. His agility made it hard to slow him down. And on the heels of Shaq officially announcing Wednesday his retirement via Tout, he'll be remembered as one of the most dominant centers in the game.

But Jackson also shared that anecdote as evidence that despite his four rings, three-time Finals MVP, one regular season MVP and 28,596 career points, the man with a million nicknames grossly underachieved. “This is a guy who could and should have been the MVP player for 10 consecutive seasons,” Jackson told Kriegel.

Laker fans are appropriately measuring the conflicted feelings they have about The Big Aristotle, Shaq Diesel, the Big Fella or whatever nickname you want to call him. They appreciate how his arrival in 1996 from the Orlando Magic breathed life into an organization that floundered since the Showtime Era and paved the way to three consecutive NBA championships from 2000-2002. They remain impressed with how O'Neal became one of three players in NBA history to be named regular-season MVP, All-Star MVP Finals MVP in 2000. And they marvel at the 35.9 points, 15.2 rebounds and 2.9 blocks he provided in 15 Finals games, with most of them coming with the Lakers.

Yet, they express similar frustrations Derek Fisher shared with The Times' NBA columnist Mark Heisler in his book Madmen's Ball on how that legacy could've been greater had there been no Shaq-Kobe Bryant, Shaq-Jackson and Jackson-Bryant infighting: "Not being able at any point to stop and recognize how good we had it and the fact that you're currently playing on maybe the most dominant team in basketball in the last five to 10 years which could become the most dominant team if you work it out and stick together ... We kind of squandered it away."

Fans loved Shaq's thunderous dunks and amazing physical presence. Lakers center Andrew Bynum, for one, tweeted, "I still remember him putting that big elbow in my chest when I was a rookie! One of the greatest to ever play the game. MUCH RESPECT BIG @SHAQ." But some grew frustrated when he reported to training camp either hurt or out of shape: Bryant questioned his work ethic. Shaq famously arrived to 2002 training camp with a hurt toe and said, "I got hurt on company time so I'll heal on company time. And Jackson once quoted Tex Winter in his book, "The Last Season" that he wanted to "expose this guy as overrated." Fans loved his endlessly memorable quotes, such as his "Can you dig it" chant, his swipes at the "Sacramento Queens" or his frequent chastising of Bill Walton. Lakers forward Ron Artest, for one, tweeted, "Shaq Legend Hang up the jersey in Orlando Miami and LA Congrats shaq You Been a big brother since day one Now Not too many donuts!!" But many abhored Shaq's frequent potshots at Bryant after the Lakers traded him in 2004 to the Miami Heat. No one forgets the three titles Shaq proved largely instrumental in bringing, but it becomes more and more of a distant memory after making jumps to the Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics. 

  

Still, it'd be wrong to equate all those mixed feelings and argue Shaq doesn't deserve his jersey to be hung on the rafters or have a statue outside Staples Center. Even if Shaq's trade helped give the Lakers additional pieces for two more titles in 2009 and 2010, that doesn't erase the three titles he proved largely instrumental in winning. Even if the Shaq-Kobe spat proved unnecessary and tiresome, that doesn't erase them as being the game's "most dominant duo," as O'Neal recently argued. And even if he had fallen in the good graces of some Laker fans and on the team itself, it wasn't enough to stop the organization from inviting O'Neal to Jerry West's statue unveiling. 

O'Neal may not have provided the amount of MVP's Jackson thought he could obtain. The Lakers' title runs may have come to a premature halt. And Shaq's post-career with the Lakers may sour the fun memories Laker fans had when he wore purple and gold. But the legacy he left with the Lakers as one of the game's most dominant centers, bringing them three NBA titles and providing plenty of entertainment value still remains impressive enough.

--Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: Even Shaquille O’Neal seemed amazed after a lob from Kobe Bryant in Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference finals against the Trail Blazers. Credit: Paul Morse / Los Angeles Times / June 12, 2009

 
Comments () | Archives (31)

The comments to this entry are closed.

yup his days were over with, he just didn't know how to tell his fans and the people, guess he finally got the courage to do it...

which makes me think, now that his no longer a player for any team, you wonder if the guy could have been imortalized in LA if that KOBE-SHAQ didn't happen, could we have given another 2 more titles after the 3-peat? who knows, but Derek Fisher is right, they never stopped to think about that they are in such a good position to win couple of more championship instead of focusing on the small stuff..

LA sure would be much different today I Bet..

Put Shaq on a 10-day contract and let him properly retire as a Laker.

Shaq has always struck me as the kind of guy that would change his mind about retirement at least once. I have a funny feeling we haven't seen the last of him yet.

@ Bay - Didn't he say he was going to retire after the Cavs before signing with the Boston Celtics? so yeah thats pretty consistant, so I hope we don't see him back again, hehe not that I hate him, its just not the same 3-peat Shaq, it's kind of like old, worn out Shaq now, and we dont wan't that, but then again as Snake92646 said it best, give him a 10-day contract and make him finish his carrier as a Laker...

Shaq wouldn't be as bad as Theo Ratliff, but wouldn't be as good as Mbenga either.

I'd sign him if I could trust him to behave. He might have proven trustworthy these last two seasons... it's just now his parts are failing big time.

10 day contract, one Kobe to Shaq and then call it good.

Tech N9ne, yes, he also gave himself a 2 year deadline several years ago and he didn't follow through with that either. I still think he is going to come back at least once after officially retiring. He'll have no trouble finding a team.

Tech N9ne, yes, he also gave himself a 2 year deadline several years ago and he didn't follow through with that either. I still think he is going to come back at least once after officially retiring. He'll have no trouble finding a team.

>>>Put Shaq on a 10-day contract and let him properly retire as a Laker.

Nope. Too disruptive.

But...

If Shaq can prove to be in playing condition next April, maybe sign him for a million bucks the last week (or even day) of the season. And have him as a backup center.

When he's in playing condition, Shaq can still have an impact on games in short stretches. Problem is, he can't really stay healthy for a full season any more. But if his season started right before the playoffs started, I'm sure he could stay healthy enough to put in 10 to 15 minutes a night. And he might even be willing to do it for another ring (and a chance to redeem himself with part of the LA crowd who turned against him when he turned against the Lakers).

Maybe I'm easy, but I for one am 100% ready to forgive the big instigator and welcome him and his retired hall-of-fame jersey back to Staples with open arms.

All grudges immediately forgotten. But he better go in the Hall as a Laker...

Wes

i'll always remember:

the big legendary, lal vs blazers wcf '00, "can you dig it," 3 championships

and the crossover on shawn bradley

and to the haters: no shaq, no ring

#stillkissingbiceps:(


THE INTERVIEW !!!
..................................
It’s a shame the Lakers did not video their job winning interview of Mike Brown because it would have been fascinating to know exactly what was on those defensive DVD’s that he wouldn’t leave with the Lakers or the page after page of notes on each Lakers player he kept pulling out of his briefcase. Obviously, Mike Brown came prepared not only to show the Lakers brain trust what he was all about but also to give them a clear and compelling vision of his own game plan for coaching the Lakers.
...
Being prepared, willing to outwork everybody, and committed to winning are traits that Mike Brown shares in common with Kobe Bryant. Watching the press conference and reading the comments that have emerged after the initial media and fan firestorm, I am starting to feel more comfortable that Mike Brown will be able to build positive relationships with Kobe and the rest of the Lakers roster. As Jerry Buss noted about Mike Brown, “He seemed to know exactly what to do with this team.”
...
One of the things I like about Mike Brown is that he came to his interview with a game plan already put together of what he thought about the team, its roster, and how he would return them to the top. What he had to say about what he would do with the team must obviously have hit a sympathetic note and jived with what Jerry, Jim, and Mitch thought should be done with the team. Like Phil, Mike has a well grounded coaching philosophy that keeps him focused and consistent as a coach.
...
Reading Kevin Ding’s latest article about Brown’s hiring, I couldn’t help but be impressed by Mike’s preparation as he wowed the Lakers hiring committee with “page after page of analysis about each Lakers player, sketching out about 20 plays to demonstrate how he would gear the offense to maximize specific player strengths. That was a gutty move by Mike because he was gambling that his view was in sync with the Lakers. Obviously, Mike Brown shared the same sentiment as the Lakers that this group of players was still championship caliber and needs only minor tweaks.
...
I suppose all the disclaimers and caveats about whether or not the Lakers will embrace Mike Brown as their new head coach are par for the course when talking about the Lakers and succeeding a great coach like Phil Jackson. Nevertheless, I think the Lakers have made an excellent choice and have a dynamic, energetic young coach who knows the game, knows how to coach, and knows how to win. It was time for a change and I think the Lakers front office once again has come up with a winner.
..................................
TOM

Very nice story there MM. I agree with a lot of it.

I liked what Andrew said, and I hope someone in the organization steps up and says Shaq's 'coming with us' into the Hall of Fame. Shaq's a bit of wanderer to me, somewhat homeless, and I just hope the Lakers ltep up et him know he has a home with this franchise.

Wes

Thank you Shaq!

Today’s selection is for Shaq. Congrats on a great career and thanks for the 3 titles. Enjoy your retirement.

Lenny – Watching the Wheels (#10 1981)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moCf_pghM-U

@ BaytoLA1 - The important question here is, will Shaq stay with Boston, I'm sure he can find a team, today or tomorrow but will he "retire" as a celtic and then come back in september and say that I'm ready for another season, until he gets injured again, playing only 1 game.

I mean fro crying out loud, who is he, Brett Favre? never too old to call it quits, but we saw what happend with Brett didn't we? I think maybe same will happen to Shaq, they are just one of those athletes that don't know when to quit!

Is that really Shaq in the picture? With biceps bulging and toned calves (of course they are nothing compared to the best pair of calves to ever grace the earth on Kwame's legs) ? Ahh the good old days when Shaq was truly the most dominant in the game.

If he had an ounce of work ethic he would have definitely finished his career as an undisputed top three to ever play the game. Regardless, the PSP thank you for the good times, the quotes, and the rings but not the movies. Kazaaaaaaaaaaaaam!!!

Thanks
PSP Intern

Wow. The Shaq retirement message is short but pretty moving. See for yourself:

http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=6616301

Wes

@ Snake92646 - Hey thanks for the link on MB and the people from Cleveland who posted stuff about him as their coach, you know what I didn't find in the article or posts? not one single person giving MB some credit or thumbs up for job well done. All they were saying is what we have been saying, he has no offense, and always talks defense. They also said, he won that many games because and only because of LBJ not because he had a good team or even he coached a good team but only one player. I don't know about this one guys, can't say I approve or dissaprove but the waters look murkey... do not go in...

while reading Yahoo news regarding the NBA/CBA negotiations, I read the article and they had David Stern saying this...

"The sides already planned to sit down twice when the series moves to Dallas, and Stern said Tuesday groups from both negotiating committees will be in Miami on Wednesday for what he called a “full-blown” bargaining session.

“We told the players and the owners to bring their negotiating talents to South Beach,” Stern said, poking fun at the line LeBron James(notes) used when he announced he was leaving Cleveland as a free agent last summer.

>>>But he better go in the Hall as a Laker...

Oh, he will. He won 3 rings with the Lakers, 1 with the Heat and did squat with any other team. If he was really spiteful, he could choose to go into the hall as a Heat, but not likely.

@LT - good post at 3:21pm.

@Tech - I wouldn't put to much stock into what Cleveland fans are saying about Mike Brown. They've been traumatized. Plus, I'm sure coach Brown will be a better coach from his Cleveland experience, like Doc and Carlisle are better for their previous experience.

>>>They also said, he won that many games because and only because of LBJ not
>>>because he had a good team or even he coached a good team but only one player.

Yes, because LeBron was the only player on the floor playing defense. Those other guys just stood around for 48 minutes while LeBron played all 5 guys...

Cleveland had one of the top ranked defenses in the league for the last 3 seasons before Brown left. One player doesn't make THAT much difference. And one coach CAN make that much difference (see Thibodeau's teams records if you don't believe me).

For three years or so Shaq was the best playoff basketball I ever saw. Once the playoffs started, he was just a Beast. A real Beast, not a potential Beast. I will always owe a debt of gratitude to Shaq for those three titles and his fun, childlike way of dealing with the media. At his best, he was among the most dominating players ever in the NBA. Thanks Shaq.


For the many mailed in regular season games? It was a waste. As Phil said (thanks MM) the award should have been named after him. He should have made MJ a footnote.


For the failed relationship with Kobe? That was a two way street and I will always blame ShaKobe for that and for the missed opportunity to grab a six-pack or more. It should have been.


Shaq vs. Kareem? No contest. Kareem is in the best ever discussion.


Three college titles. Two time college player of the year. Three time NCAA tournament MVP. 61 points in one game. A scoring average of 29.


Six NBA titles. Six time NBA MVP. 19 time all-star. Top scorer ever. Most unstoppable shot ever. 11 blocks in a game 3 times. 2.6 per game for his career. Averaged over 11 boards per game even with the lower rebound totals he grabbed in his late thirties and early forties. In his prime he averaged from 14-17 per game.


Kareem is not warm and fuzzy. His most visible years as a Laker he was getting older and Magic stole the spotlight. But any serious conversation about best ever has include the Captain.


Shaq could have been there if was willing to work that hard. But for what he DID bring to LA, I thank him.

@ LRob2 - Yea that is true, they are 2 different franchises that require different type of coaching, I will give you that, also, I would honestly give the people from Ohio the benefit of the doubt, it's not like they hated the guy after he got fired and LBJ left its just that, MB has been with Cleveland for couple of years and no matter how much bad stuff they say about him, it may hold true, because it's not like I was following Cavs during MB's tenure at Cleveland, so I don't know, that's why we have to take some of the stuff they say, but not all because again, CLEVELAND is CLEVELAND, it's nothing...

"@ Snake92646 - Hey thanks for the link on MB and the people from Cleveland who posted stuff about him as their coach, you know what I didn't find in the article or posts? not one single person giving MB some credit or thumbs up for job well done. All they were saying is what we have been saying, he has no offense, and always talks defense. They also said, he won that many games because and only because of LBJ not because he had a good team or even he coached a good team but only one player. I don't know about this one guys, can't say I approve or dissaprove but the waters look murkey... do not go in...

Posted by: Tech N9ne | June 01, 2011 at 03:47 PM "


I remember Mike Brown was widely criticized for giving LeBron free rein on offense and not being the one calling the plays. It sounds like he plans to do the same for Kobe and the Lakers and I wonder how that will work out.

There are a lot of egos to manage on this team. Pau and Andrew are both going to get angry about touches if the team is not doing well. Derek is going to be angry if he is not in the starting lineup. Kobe will pass his teammates by if they sulk or disagree. I don't know how they're all going to react with a new staff in charge.

THANK YOU SHAQ FOR WINNING US 3 TITLES!

"For three years or so Shaq was the best playoff basketball I ever saw. Once the playoffs started, he was just a Beast. A real Beast, not a potential Beast.

Posted by: Tom Daniels | June 01, 2011 at 04:23 PM "

Indeed. Shaq was the "switch" people always talk about.

Shaquille Muhammed O'Neal will live as an underachiever. A giant among giants who never bothered himself to add something of a basketball skill like a 15 foot shot consistently; free throw percentage of 70%; simple left handed layup; 2.5 blocks. Yes, he was dominant like a 6.3 ft., 270 lb., man playing against 5.9 ft., 155 men at the recreation gym. A great player, not really skillful but enough to muster multiple championships. However, more than his fake demeanor his mouth was his overachiever. Myopic to the very end but I doubt he'll retire. If the Heat loses the championship I see Shaquille warming the bench next year. Pat knows in having a big man out of the bench in championship (Alonzo) time.

No ten day Contracts with the Lakers,
No retirement party,
No Statue,
No Jersey in rafters,

No Never Noway None Nothing for the Big Fraud!!!!!!!!!

Wow, some pretty heated anti-Shaq comments. I guess people's memories really are that short. I mean, the guy gave us (with Kobe or Kobe with Shaq, whichever floats your boat) three championship titles and four finals appearances in five seasons. How can you not hang his jersey? I hate that he underachieved as much as the next person (not to mention being petty after he left here) but that would be wrong to not hang his jersey. I will say that a statue is little much given that The Captain still hasn't got one. But jersey number retired? Absolutely.

Some Laker fans never cease to amaze with their ingratitude and selective memories. Shaq brought Big drama and frustration at times. But he
produced enormous results for the Lakers.

4 Finals and 3 titles. 3 Finals MVPs. He was the *best player* on a team that made one of the greatest championship runs in the history of the game. He helped restore the Lakers' luster after a pretty long title drought. It makes no sense to do anything but thank him and appreciate what he did for the franchise, which was to help lift it out of the shadow of the Bulls Dynasty *and* push it ever closer in the banner race with the Celtics.

True Laker fans will appreciate you, Big. I do wish that you and Kobe had been able to see your title run through to the end, but it wasn't all your fault, regardless of how some fans now like to pretend otherwise. The O'Briens and great memories outweigh the bad stuff.

The same will apply for Kobe when he hangs'em up too.


Connect

Advertisement

In Case You Missed It...

Video

All Things Lakers »

Your database for all things purple and gold.

Find a Laker

Search a name

Select a season

Choose one of our lists



Categories


Archives
 

About the Bloggers


Bleacher Report | Lakers

Reader contributions from Times partner Bleacher Report

More Lakers on Bleacher Report »



Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists:


In Case You Missed It...