The Miami Herald Lays Out The Case That Shaq Is Kind Of A Dick
Shaquille O'Neal is one of the most iconic athletes in recent memory, and while his on-court accomplishments are a critical part of his legacy, just as important is that he has a personality to match his gargantuan frame. Right up to the day he retired (and still now, thanks to his new TV deal), Shaq wanted to leave his mark on the larger entertainment world as much as basketball itself. And because he often was pretty funny, fans loved him for it.
Fans loved Shaq so much, in fact, that Dan Le Batard of the Miami Herald thinks the fans' love obscures something - namely, that Shaq did a lot of "jerky stuff" over the years. Le Batard presents the following as evidence:
He has torched legends like Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson and Pat Riley. He has called Erik Dampier “Erika” and Chris Bosh the RuPaul of NBA big men and gone after Dwight Howard, too. He has bullied trainers and Chris Quinn and behaved in a way that is oddly small. He never wanted to work hard, and helped oust Stan Van Gundy in Miami when pushed to do so. Given his overwhelming gifts and size, and his underwhelming work ethic, you could argue that he underachieved.
Re: underachieving, plenty have argued that. Bill Simmons said this in a column about LeBron James from early 2010:
I don't know if he will keep striving to get better, or if he'll settle on getting 91.7 percent there and enjoying the ride like Shaq did.
This, of course, plays into Le Batard's argument: sure, "91.7 percent there" was good enough to make Shaq one of the best ever, but if it's a generally accepted fact that he didn't achieve everything he could, why doesn't he take more heat for it? Or the whole Kobe feud, where both parties bear some of the blame, but Shaq certainly can't be seen as blameless? Or when Shaq said the Kobe feud was actually nonexistent, a creation of Phil Jackson? Or the Stan Van Gundy ripping?
We were always just a "Shaqtus" away from not caring about anything in the previous paragraph (indeed, in looking up examples to use in that paragraph, we indeed had forgotten Shaq did some of those things). That makes sense: if Shaq was so willing to have a laugh, shouldn't we also think that maybe he wasn't taking all these barbs terribly seriously, and that maybe we shouldn't either? But as Le Batard notes, there are plenty of other players we haven't given the benefit of the doubt for similar antics. The difference: Shaq was a smarter/more gifted self-promoter. (The same is true, Le Batard says, of Shaq's new studio-mate Charles Barkley.)
To us, a well-established sense of humor/ability not to take oneself too seriously is a legitimate reason to look differently upon someone's comments...to an extent. The fact that Shaq's persona is so different from that of Terrell Owens (to whom Le Batard compares Shaq) matters, and the fact that Shaq is so willing to joke around is, in our estimation, good. But we'll admit...Shaq has ripped more people than we remembered. And a lot of the time, it sure seems like it was for no good reason, or flat-out not justified. It's nice that Shaq has the ability to craft a funny one-liner, and by all means, he should use that ability. But it's worth pointing out that maybe that ability tends to make him look better in the public eye than he should.
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