During Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals the other day, you might have seen Shaquille O’Neal in the Orlando crowd. In one of the defining wins of the franchise’s short history, the player who really put them on the map was back. And if Shaq’s original departure from the Magic wasn’t such an ugly situation — him basically taking the money and running to L.A. as soon as he was a free agent in ’96 — it would have been touching in a Dominique Wilkins-in-Atlanta sort of way.
So naturally, some people in Orlando don’t want Shaq anywhere near their gym. Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi is one of them, as he makes clear in today’s paper:
It was like being at your own wedding — a day of rejoicing and exultation and entering an exciting new phase of your life — and then seeing the ex-girlfriend who ripped your heart out sitting in the front row of the church.
Why was Shaquille O’Neal sitting courtside at the Magic’s huge Game 4 overtime victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night?
Who sent him an invitation to the party? He was more out of place than Rush Limbaugh dancing the night away to the Dixie Chicks at Barack Obama‘s inauguration ball.
Can you believe it? The guy who destroyed the franchise 13 years ago when he bolted for L.A., actually showed up at the amped-up Am on a night when the Magic and their fans were raucously relishing their resurrection.
To his credit, Bianchi goes on to admit that Shaq is free to go wherever he wants, and seeing as he still keeps an offseason home in Orlando, it makes sense for him to attend an NBA playoff game when he’s got nothing else to do. Still, he doesn’t get the big man’s motivation, especially considering the way Shaq went at Dwight Howard and Stan Van Gundy in the press earlier this year. More from the column:
Why would a player who has torn down Orlando’s franchise both symbolically and semantically show up at the Magic’s biggest home playoff game in years?
This was a Magic housewarming attended by none other than the ol’ home-wrecker himself. This was like a deadbeat husband resurfacing when Mom is finally happily remarried and the kids are calling somebody else “Daddy.”
The Magic have an admirable policy where they take care of their former players and provide them with access to tickets, but in Shaq’s case shouldn’t the policy be reviewed? Instead of giving him seats near the floor, may I suggest a different locale â€” like, say, Section Z, Row Z, Seat Z; right up there somewhere above the polar ice cap?
Put yourself in an Orlando fan’s shoes: Is there a certain player or person you’d hate to see in the building for one of your team’s biggest moments?
Source: Orlando Sentinel