Late Wednesday afternoon, Shaq announced on Twitter that he'll retire from the NBA, bringing an end to one of the most dominant careers in NBA History. Now we can finally appreciate him for what he was.
It's not to say what he became was any sort of tragedy. For the past five or six years, Shaq's ability to remain relevant has been its own sort of accomplishment. But next to what he was, anything pales in comparison. He was so good in his prime, he makes Dwight Howard look flawed ten years later. He made Kobe Bryant insecure, and every other big man irrelevant.
The appeal of Shaq was always self-evident, and best experienced in person. Not since Wilt Chamberlain had basketball seen a guy with that much size and power, and so much grace to go with it. So when I heard he was retiring today, my first reaction was simple: "FINALLY."
Over the past few years, it's been hard to remember the real Shaq. It's like somebody replaced the most physically dominating player of my lifetime with an ongoing caricature of an NBA center. He was still bigger than anyone in the league, but he was as slower, too. What used to be shocking about Shaq wasn't his size, but that his size never kept him from being one of the most explosive players on the court. That's what made him special.
Toward the end, he stopped being special, and became more like a rich man's Eddy Curry. Even if he put up decent numbers in Phoenix and Cleveland and then Boston... It wasn't the same guy.
It reminds me of this line from an article last week, about watching superstars get older. In that piece, he talks about learning to watch the NBA without using stars as a benchmark for his own aging process, and dreams of a day when "Shaquille O’Neal will be one of the greatest centers ever to play, rather than a THIRTY-NINE YEAR-OLD REMINDER OF DEATH."
Ultimately, that's what Shaq became. For anyone that watched him during his prime, he seemed indestructible. For those who watched him with the Cavs and Celtics, he was painfully mortal, and more famous for his antics on Twitter and in between games with the media. I'll probably have more to say tomorrow or sometime soon, but in the meantime, I'm glad it's over.
Looking back on his career, he said Wednesday, "I tried to make people happy and I tried to have fun. I think I did both." Indeed, Shaq's finally gone, and it ends on an upbeat note.
Now he can go back to being that ass-kicking freak of nature we've always remembered.
With that, let's get into more Talking Points...
The Stanley Cup Finals, And Why We Should All Be Canucks Fans. The Vancouver Canucks haven't been in the Stanley Cup Finals since 1994, when they lost to the Rangers. The Boston Bruins haven't been in the Stanley Cup Finals since 1990, when they lost to the Edmonton Oilers. Both are great hockey towns, both fanbases have waited their turn.
So it may be hard for you to really choose a favorite here... But here's the thing. Boston fans have other sports to occupy them. Not only that, while the Bruins have been in no-man's land since the '90s, the Red Sox, Celtics, and Patriots have each won titles, and Boston's been the most successful sports city in the country. Plus, Boston fans are Boston fans.
And Canucks fans are just awesome. Witness this story from Deadspin, where a Canucks fan writes in about his spur-of-the-moment trip to San Jose to watch Game 4 of the Sharks-Canucks series, winds up partying with the owner of the team, getting hospitalized, and then getting free tickets to Game 5 back in Vancouver. So much awesomeness here:
We see a limo pull up to the bar and out steps Francesco Aquilini, the owner of the Vancouver Canucks, his two buddies, and the three hottest girls I have ever seen. They walk in and for whatever reason are drawn to us. We offer them a seat at our table and they sit with us.
We tell Aquilini's friend our story of how we got to the game. He thinks it's the coolest thing ever and tells Francesco our story about five times (he has been drinking as well). They all think it's pretty awesome that we drove straight down, so they get our names, and tell us there will be tickets for us at will call for Game 5 back in Vancouver in two days. They ask how we are getting home from San Jose. Jared tells them that we drove down and are going to drive home again in the morning. This answer is unacceptable. They insist we get on the airplane with them. We say we can't because Jared's car is in San Jose. Their solution is to buy Jared a new car once we get back to Vancouver.
The rest of the story is great, but actually, I think I'm rooting for the Canucks solely because that move from the owner and his friends. "We'll fly back to Vancouver." ... "We can't leave our car behind." ... "Well what if I just buy you a new car?" Um.... GO CANUCKS.
Gilbert Arenas Is On Twitter. Follow him here, and enjoy stories like this one:
Well ive started a new hobby which is fishin..2 days before i was watchin the news and a kid was fishin a hooked a 5 foot gator. The 9 year old jumped on the ground a held the gator down till help came..(yes he was not blk lol). So i got excited like shiiii i can fish and catch a gator too... So i bought pole hats gloves etc fishing shit i guess...and went to the lake. well i was the first one there so i had my line in the water and this is when i realize im a coward..
Well a fish was close to the edge splashing water i guess the shit was doing the diddy not the dougie..so he as it got close im thinking gator so i dropped the pole and ran. And when i realize it was just a fish i ran back and grabbed my pole before it went in the lake i guess doing all that i snapped my line. And my boys walked up and I screamed out (yea they biting today i think a gator snapped my line i was trying to fight him but too strong).
I made it so believable..they really thought a gator was in there...so they fixed the line..mind u i have no plans on catching a fish. Just liking the idea of fishing so about 3 hours later i hook one...so i didn't know u suppose to fight with the damn fish for 10 days min. there screaming get him tired...im like shit (he might be thinking the same thing)so he started pullin so i said this has to be a fuckin gator..somebody cut my line quick or go get that 9 year old (none bloke kid) because im kinda scared now..so they started to help me with the [line] and when we finally pulled it out the fish didnt way more then 3 pounds so they started laughn at me and walked away...
It's really, really good to have him on Twitter again. That even came with a Twitpic.
What Larry Bird Thinks Of The Larry Bird Comparisons. The Larry Bird-Dirk Nowitzki comparisons aren't going away anytime soon, and sometimes it seems like those comparisons exist solely for NBA diehards to stand up say, "WHOA, do you remember Larry Bird? 'Cause I do and that comparison's an insult!" Larry Bird doesn't seem too insulted, though.
And it sorta makes me love Bird even more. Via ESPN:
"I've always admired the guy. He's had a great run, but I've always been very impressed with him. His work ethic, his loyalty to his country. It's really an honor for me to have people compare us. I've always felt it's an honor when they compare anyone to me, because I haven't played ball for 20 years. Dirk plays the game like Mully. He plays it at his pace. You can think the game out a lot easier if you're going at your pace."
Most of all, though, I just love that he calls Chris Mullin "Mully".
Fake Jerry Jones Visits Tony Romo's Wedding. Hilarity ensues.
The NCAA Is A Joke, And The Media Doesn't Quite Get It. Jim Tressel is finally out at Ohio State, thanks in large part to a Sports Illustrated story that (Sports Illustrated says) forced the administration's hand. All of which is fine, so long as we remember that in congratulating themselves over Tressel (a lying, arrogant, hypocrite in his own right) SI's pretty much missing the point in all this.
I wrote about this a few months ago, when it was Yahoo! Sports that was congratulating themselves, after they'd first uncovered a scandal at OSU:
...it's not just that reporters have to co-sign an organization steeped in hypocrisy, but these days, they're the only ones around to compensate for that organization's massive incompetence. And with Ohio State in the NCAA's crosshairs thanks almost entirely to Yahoo! Sports, the only thing funnier than the NCAA's ongoing hypocrisy is how bad they are at doing their jobs. You know, unless you think it's hilarious that a bunch of outstanding reporters are pretending that corruption in Columbus is somehow a bigger story than the corruption in Indianapolis.
Tommy Craggs echoes that point at Deadspin, and it's truer than ever after this weekend.
Les Is A Joke, Too, But In An Awesome Way. EDSBS needs to start a Fake Les Miles spinoff site.
This Is My New Favorite Tumblr, I Think. Game of Thrones + Arrested Development.
Did Someone Say Horse Herpes? I wish this report could go on forever. Via Videogum:
Now If You'll Excuse Me, Time To Go Watch Kazaam. Or maybe just this, on a continuous loop: