The Big Shamrock?

 

Shaquille O'Neal

The Big "Shamrock"

 

This strange NBA offseason keeps getting more surreal, with Shaquille O’Neal joining the Boston Celtics for the veteran’s minimum on a two-year deal.

As a long-time Celtics fan, I’m not sure I had ever really given the idea of Shaq in a Celtics uniform much thought. I just assumed that it would never happen. Of course, if someone had tried to tell me in 2006 that the Boston Celtics 2010-2011 roster would include Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Jermaine O’Neal, and Shaquille O’Neal, I’d have died from a laughing fit.

Shaq is certainly past his days of being a truly dominant game changer, and yet, I can’t help but feel that he still has something left to bring to the Celtics. Watching the Celtics get beaten up on the boards in Game 7 of the Finals back in June convinced me that without Kendrick Perkins – and possibly even with him – the Celtics simply lacked the size and bulk to deal with a front-line like the Lakers.

Obviously, Shaq isn’t going back to the days of being the focal point of a team, but on the Celtics, he doesn’t have to be. He simply needs to provide some rebounding, points, and lane clogging defense off the bench. He can still do that, and a team could do much worse than having Shaq as an available option to play center for them.

Will Shaq mean that the Celtics win the title next year? Obviously it would be foolish to make that assumption, and there are dangerous teams like Miami, the Lakers, and the Orlando Magic out there to get in the way. I do feel confident in suggesting that had the Celtics had Shaq and Jermaine O’Neal in June, they would likely have claimed the title rather than the Lakers, as a few rebounds would have made all the difference against a Lakers team that couldn’t seem to hit the broadside of a barn for most of game 7.

Should be an interesting season next year, and the Celtics new Big “Shamrock” should only add to that. Win or lose, I’m at least looking forward to the show. Shaq rarely fails to entertain.

Why we should all be rooting for the Boston Celtics to win the NBA Championship.

Let’s start with the obvious disclaimer that I’m a Celtics fan and I can’t stand the Los Angeles Lakers or Kobe Bryant. With that out of the way, let me explain why I think that the vast majority of basketball fans should be rooting for the Boston Celtics to win the NBA Championship this post season. If you’re a fan of one of the other three teams still remaining, you’re excused. We can all appreciate loyalty. Otherwise, your rooting interest should go to the Celtics for one very simple reason: Team.

The NBA has long pushed individual superstars. Whether it be Wilt, Magic, Bird, Michael, Kobe, or LeBron, the NBA has marketed individual greatness. It has ridden the back of individual superstars and turned them into marketing icons. For myself and I suspect at least some others, that emphasis on the individual has become a turn off – a gross and crass exuberance for the celebration of the selfish. Kobe Bryant and the media’s “LeBron Sweepstakes” obsession are the pinnacle of this trend. As great as Magic, Larry, and Michael were individually, the best thing about them was the way they helped spur their teams on to the greatest heights. Michael Jordan made Bill Wennington and an aging Bill Cartwright look like integral parts of championship teams. Kobe Bryant needed the individual skills of Shaq or Pau Gasol to help him win a championship. I actually hear complaints from Laker fans when Kobe doesn’t take enough shots. Wow.

Frankly, I’m sick of hearing about the “Black Mamba” and LeBron, and to my eyes, the Boston Celtics look like the antidote to a basketball culture that’s become all about “me.” The Celtics are so fun to watch right now because more than any other team they are winning by their combined talents. They buried LeBron James and the Cavaliers not with individually great performances (although Rajon Rondo’s impressive triple-double was just that), but by working together. To watch the Celtics pass the ball when their offense is running on all cylinders is a thing of beauty.

Watching three aging stars, a great young point guard, a tough center who does the little things, and a bench of misfits come together to shock the media darling teams has been a great pleasure, but more than anything, it represents a triumph of the team over the individual. Growing up, I was taught that team sports were about coming together to form a whole greater than the sum of the individual parts. That’s the Boston Celtics, and I for one hope they dispatch the Orlando Magic and go on to win the championship by proving that “we” is better than “me.”

You can keep Kobe, L.A. I’d rather have a team anyway.