Shaquille O'Neal: The Journeyman Superstar

There are a couple great ironies in the Shaq-LeBron partnership--the most self-aware NBA superstar in recent memory joining the most blissfully self-obsessed, for example. But here's the thing I've been thinking about: the Cavs will attempt to convince LeBron never to stray from northeastern Ohio for the rest of his grown life by pairing him with one of the two greatest journeymen in NBA history. ↵

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↵When the league came out with its "50 Greatest" in the late '90s, the list was peppered with single-city legends. There were single-city stars from the olden days (George Mikan, Jerry West), single-city stars from the heyday (Magic, Bird), and single-city from what was then the current crop of all-stars (Stockton, Robinson). Sixteen of the 50 megastars never switched franchises, and a bunch of others (Olajuwon, Jordan, Drexler, Malone, to name four) changed addresses only once, late in their careers. ↵

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↵So with this latest move, Shaq joins possibly the most exclusive club in NBA history: guys who made the 50 Greatest list while playing for at least five different franchises. By my count, there are only two members: Shaq and Moses Malone. Check out Malone's itinerary: drafted by the Utah Stars, sold to the Spirits of St. Louis, shipped to Portland in the ABA dispersal draft, traded to the Buffalo Braves and then the Houston Rockets, traded to the Philadelphia 76ers and then the Washington Bullets, signed as a free agent with first Atlanta and then Milwaukee, with Philadelphia and then San Antonio. That's more traveling than in a LeBron James instructional video. ↵

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↵(There's one other potential member of the club, Tiny Archibald, who has five franchises on his resume but missed an entire season and thus never played for Buffalo.) ↵

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↵In the NBA, "journeyman" is usually as cheerful a title as "sharpshooter from Duke" or "long-time member of the Clippers." ↵

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↵"I didn’t deserve to be on nine different teams; it just so happened that I turned out to be a journeyman in this league," journeyman guard Mike James recently said. "At the end of the day, I didn’t deserve my journey in this league, but it was meant to be." ↵

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↵Shaq, though, seems to embrace his journeymandom. He never really was a Lakers star, and certainly not a Heat or a Suns star; he was an NBA star, his own little franchise, Tweeting his way through a rainbow of team colors. And as for the inevitable question, yeah, he plans to enter the Hall of Fame wearing a JabbaWockeeZ jersey. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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