Too lovable to hate? Shaq's persona masks lagging career
Shaq is in Boston now, hoping to be the final piece that brings the Celtics a championship. Last year, he was supposed to be the Cavs' final piece. Before that, Phoenix's final piece. It hasn't worked yet. Shaq is not the first-generation athletic-freak Shaq, or even the second-generation still-dominant Shaq, and he might not even be the third-generation flashes-now-and-again Shaq.
But he is still Shaq, and so I suspect most people are pulling for him. He is the kind of guy you pull for, sometimes despite your better instincts, because ... well, as he says on his Twitter page: "VERY QUOTATIOUS, I PERFORM RANDOM ACTS OF SHAQNESS."
There are so many conventional reasons that the public should ridicule Shaq. For years, he saw the regular season as a time to get in shape. The most successful coach ever,
And yet ... this is weird, but it somehow has all made Shaq more likable, because it's all a game to him.
"I don't let earthlings motivate me," he once said, and again: Shaquille O'Neal is funny. And, for that reason, like
Really, I think that's it. I don't mean to simplify too much, but this is a purposefully simple man. He just wants to have fun. His feud with Kobe boiled down to simple philosophical differences: Kobe took everything too seriously, and Shaq did not take things seriously enough. Kobe showed up at training camp in late September determined to show everybody he was the best player of all time. Shaq showed up fat, out of shape and, one year, needing surgery he had put off so he could enjoy his summer.
The American sports fan ethos should have tilted public opinion toward Kobe. But most people sided with Shaq. He had the benefit of timing: Shaq was a full-blown superstar when the Lakers started winning championships, while Kobe was still rising. But also, Shaq seemed like more fun to hang around. Kobe is a born assassin. Shaq is an aspiring cartoon character, complete with the Superman "S" tattoo and nicknames like "The Big Shamrock." Early in his career, he said he had different smiles depending on how much he was getting paid to endorse a product.
So the world wonders why anybody would sign loafer