Daddy heads for destiny

Basketball Digest,  Nov-Dec, 2004  by Brett Ballantin

IT WAS ALMOST TOO PERFECT, the marriage of Shaquille O'Neal and the Los Angeles Lakers.

O'Neal was always a larger-than-life character, bigger than the LSU campus in college and certainly bigger than anything the prefab city of Orlando had to offer.

No, Shaq Daddy was built for tinseltown. Already a movie star--using the term as loosely as a pair of Shaq's shorts would fit on the average BASKETBALL DIGEST reader--it was as if L.A. always had its arms open, beckoning.

At the lime (and now, for all time), Shaq's signing with the Lakers was the most lopsided deal in the history of the NBA. In exchange for losing O'Neal to the Lakers, the Orlando Magic received ... nothing. That's right. No token second round pick, no 12th man off of the Lakers bench, and no commissioner-deemed "compensatory picks."

No, Orlando just got to seethe--and having been on the precipice of an NBA title, wonder what could have been had Shaq stayed--then seethe some more.

You're probably familiar with the L.A. side of Shaq's story. He loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly, where after first enduring some frustrating first seasons with Kobe Bryant, he teamed with Phil Jackson and left the league in the dust, to the tune of three straight titles.

This summer was moving time again for O'Neal, back East and just south of his onetime Orlando home. The Miami Heat swung the doors of the American Airlines Arena open and dubbed it the "Love Shaq."

O'Neal may have left his days as a rapper and matinee idol back with the stacks of "fourpeat" shirts that are sitting by the curb back in Cali, but he's still the NBA's greatest entertainer. The challenge ahead--winning a title without Kobe or the L.A. mystique--will be formidable.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Century Publishing
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group