Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
Ugh, Shaq. By now, you’ve almost certainly read his latest stupid attempts to needle Dwight Howard, saying it would be a “travesty” if Howard left Orlando. Which is immediately ridiculous, because, you know … Shaq did that.
I’m not the first person commenting on this story, but this latest little whine has taken my Shaq hate to new levels. I’ve never enjoyed Shaq because I can’t stand his constant insecure posturing, his disingenuous media manipulation or his inability to coexist with anybody taking even a modicum of attention from him. But for some reason, I really think the casual fan is still fooled by Shaq’s act — I find it impossible to believe that anybody in 2012 thinks Shaq is actually an enormous jokester who just can’t help shooting straight, but it seems as if a lot of folks still think that. It’s baffling.
I find Shaq’s fascination with Dwight doubly frustrating because it’s just so obvious how threatened Shaq feels by Dwight, which is ridiculous. Look, I love Dwight, and he’s a more balanced player than Shaq ever was, not to mention an even more incredible athlete than young Shaq, but he’s clearly not currently as effective as Shaq was in his prime. Again, I am definitely NOT saying that Dwight isn’t an historically effective player, but good God, you guys remember what Shaq was capable of, right?
For him to spend his retirement trying to distance himself from every talent who also draws media attention is pathetic, and it makes me wonder what the appeal of Shaq’s persona is. Seriously — what about Shaq as an image or personality has grown his fan base? He doesn’t “just win;” he constantly ran his mouth and was frequently out of shape or clearly not trying. His biggest single advantage — being an enormous human — isn’t something you can seem to cultivate by scheduling post-loss shooting sessions in opponent’s gyms.
In fact, it seems like Shaq is at least as insecurely image conscious as LeBron, as periodically lazy as Rasheed Wallace and as preternaturally gifted as any one ever. Isn’t that the recipe for people seriously hating an athlete? Didn’t he play for like 13 teams in the last 3 years of his career? Isn’t he the single worst and least funny television analyst on an otherwise entertaining and insightful show? What is going on here?
I guess I’m willing to fall back on the standard explanation of the viewing public conflating decency as a human with the ability to win basketball games, but it seems like Shaq would’ve done more than enough to undermine that. I’m actually a little puzzled by this. Why don’t more people hate Shaq?
Bonus footage of Magic Shaq stomping on Tokyo, shaping whole worlds in the chaos of his wake.