While Shaquille O’Neal is one of the most dominating big men in NBA history, I think serious consideration needs to be put into whether he will be playing next year. While O’Neal will likely end up somewhere next year as a spot starter or backup, I think it is time for Shaq to bow out.
At 38, he is the league’s oldest active player and his signs of age are everywhere. Shaq has been injured frequently the past few years, missing too many games for him to truly establish a rhythm. He also appears lazy on defense, and especially on the boards. Kevin Garnett and the rest of the Celtics beat him too often to rebounds, or Shaq’s boxout was so poor that they barely had to make an effort to track down the ball. While Shaq’s age is clearly showing on the court in his declining productivity, that is not the primary reason he should hang it up.
Shaq’s outsized persona, and his penchant to be the center of attention have alienated many teammates in the past few years. In Miami, he parted ways bitterly particularly with star Dwyane Wade and coach Pat Riley. In Phoenix, he tried so hard to prove he was still capable of putting up big numbers that he failed to fit into the “team” concept, and was not on great terms with star guard Steve Nash when he left. While he didn’t alienate King James during his brief tenure in Cleveland, he still didn’t produce near the level he used to.
While there is some talk of Shaq going to the Nets to play in his hometown of Newark, I pray that doesn’t happen. As a die-hard Nets fan, the last thing that team needs is Shaq coming in and taking up the spotlight from a team that needs to move ahead in time with Brook Lopez as the face of the franchise, and not back in time with a washed-up former superstar as the latest in Brett Yormark‘s marketing tricks for the team.
However, saying all this, I would love to see Shaq sign on with the Nets as an assistant coach. He could mentor Lopez, while simultaneously promoting the Nets and Newark without the clogging up the court in an offense that will hopefully be run by Devin Harris and John Wall next year, and messing with the chemistry of a team of young players. So Shaq, do us all a favor and retire gracefully as opposed to shuffling through teams like you’ve done the past few years. You’ll thank me later.
What do you think? Should Shaq keep playing or should he retire?
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