Tag Archives: shaquille o’neal

Random Thoughts Vol.2

Hit me... I dare you.

It’s been a month… time for more random thoughts.

I’m pretty sure that even if Dontrelle Willis’s improbable comeback as a pitcher fizzles out, he can be a DH or first baseman with that bat.

The Pirates are now dead… I knew it couldn’t last.

FC Barcelona losing to Chivas USA is the equivalent of Michigan losing to Appalachian State.

Justin Verlander might throw 6 more no hitters this year… I’m not joking about that either.

The U.S. Women didn’t choke.

(I mean did you watch the game? Japan never died. They kept fighting back and took advantage of the opportunities that were given to them. Sure the U.S. missed chances in penalty kicks where the Japan goaltender all of a sudden looked like Ken Dryden. However, you can’t say that they choked the game away when Japan played well in the face of adversity. Sometimes teams give games away but most times teams pull victory from the jaws of defeat. That’s what Japan did.)

Isn’t it funny that Ben Roethlisberger provided good off-season news for the Steelers as opposed to everyone else?

I’m surprised Steve Williams didn’t rip Tiger Woods even more than he did.

The Red Sox have not had a solid starting staff for the entire season with bullpen issues… yet have been in first place since June. And you think Adrian Gonzalez doesn’t deserve MVP?

Randy Moss aint done… seriously.

Are Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand the more extreme version of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter?

Seguin and Marchand are really enjoying winning the Stanley Cup.

I hate Merrill Hoge… but he was right about Tim Tebow…

And LeBron James would back him up wouldn’t he.

(My least favorite basketball player who shrinks in the moment defending the most overrated athlete not named Jimmer Fredette… god has a sense of humor.)

Kevin Durant dropped 66 at the Rucker… somewhere Russell Westbrook was seething.

Nice to see that Shea Weber got $7.5 million in arbitration… he’ll get that when he’s a Red Wing next year too.

The most aggravating rotation in baseball would consist of A.J. Burnett, John Lackey, Barry Zito, Edinson Volquez and Zach Greinke… with Burnett leading the league in headaches.

(I hate A.J. Burnett.)

The Eagles are the new Heat.

Osi Umenyiora can talk about a new deal all he wants. However, if he follows up another big sack season with a small sack season… kick rocks.

Ocho and Brady… Jesus.

What do you think Carson Palmer will do with all that money now that he’s retired?

Kyle Orton has lost his starting jobs to Jay Cutler, Rex Grossman and Tim Tebow…if he went on a 12 month bender I wouldn’t judge him.

Oklahoma is no.1 in the coaches’ poll. The last team to start the season no.1 and finish it as such… 2004 USC… good luck Boomer Sooner.

Strasburg is coming back… *giddy face*.

Shaq and Barkley on TNT… I need my cable back and fast.

The Red Sox traded for Erik Bedard to help their rotation… his ERA at Fenway is near 7 lifetime… I’m starting to feel ok that the Yankees didn’t get anything before the deadline.

Ryan Howard in his last 3 games has 3 home runs and 6 RBI, yep it must be August.

Michael Irvin on the cover of a gay magazine to promote equality of all people. Don’t know if I would’ve done it but very gutsy.

I win... again.

Duke being investigated for violations in recruiting… told you that no one is clean anymore.

When is Verlander’s next start again?

(We’re at a point with Verlander that he is must see TV. Verlander throws harder than anyone else in the league and his location has improved to the point where now he is close to pinpoint accurate. If you play the Tigers and Verlander is up on the mound then you might as well take it as a loss. He’s currently baseball’s best hurler and he hasn’t even hit his prime yet. Imagine this guy in 4 years… scary.)

Yani Tseng is the most dominant athlete in the world right now. And I am well aware that she is a 22 year-old female golfer and not many people watch women’s golf, but you should watch her.

Dan Uggla has a 25 game hitting streak… yet is batting .213… ummm?

NFL players like talking smack about how bad Roger Goodell is in the media, yet the signed this new CBA like everything is ok. Either take action or shut the hell up.

Is it wrong that I’m more excited for Syracuse football than Ohio State football? Keep in mind that I’m an OSU grad though I grew up with the ‘Cuse.

When A-rod retires there will be no specials on his greatness, no lauding over his accomplishments… hell there maybe a party thrown just for the fact that we never get to hear his name again.

(I haven’t been on A-Rod in a while but he’s like a bad ex-girlfriend he always finds a way to drive you crazy.

Really A-rod… illegal poker rings? And you still go after MLB and the Yankees tell you not to?

The Yankees are in a pennant race, one game back of Boston with the biggest part of the season approaching and you decide to blow a few thousand in front of low lifes, coke users and violent outcasts.

Eat your heart out Red Sox Nation.

I always say that I’m over A-rod but I really mean it this time. If this is true and A-rod did violate MLB policy then the Yankees should find a loophole in his deal, drop him like a bad habit and let Eduardo Nunez go through his growing pains at third.

I’m over the A-rod drama, I’m over the fact that there is always something with him and I’m ready to move on from him. Hopefully the Yankees brass feels the same.)

Kate Upton’s a Yankees fan, thank you God.

Had to end it off positively. Have you ever seen Kate Upton? That would make anyone feel good even when your third baseman is a perennial screw up.


What Could’ve Been For Yao Ming

Yao Ming retired today after 9 injury plagued seasons.

When Yao Ming retired this afternoon after 9 injury-plagued seasons in the NBA I couldn’t help but think of what could have been.

 

When he arrived on the scene Yao was an instant hit. On the court he was a mammoth specimen with unlimited potential. At 7’6” and 280 pounds Yao was one of the biggest men to ever play the game of basketball and also one of the most skilled men at his position.

 

He wasn’t as big in terms of girth like Shaquille O’ Neal nor was he as nimble as the man the roamed the paint in Houston before him in Hakeem Olajuwon. But Yao had the moves to out maneuver some of the best big men in the NBA and the smarts to guide him through each game.

 

In his early bouts against Shaq it was a tale of two centers. One who was an immovable object in the paint that intimidated his opponents with his large mass and unbelievable power, the other which even at age 21 was cunning enough to force his opponents into foul trouble and break them down with his prowess and ever evolving game. Yao got the better of Shaq in the win column during those as he was able to overcome those slights in power and speed and guide the Rockets to victory via his wit.

 

That was Yao, he was a new breed of center. In an age where the center was supposed to be a relic he was on the verge of making it the most ballyhooed position in the league again and start a revolution of the position.

 

He was skilled on the block as well as the outside. Yao could hit 16-foot jumpers just as easily as he could back Michael Olawakandi down in the paint for layups. He was an exceptional passer who could find shooters with ease and made life for defenders hard whether they were guarding him or watching the perimeter.

 

In the paint on defense he was becoming an emerging shot blocker who altered shots with his large frame and made life hell for driving guards as well as big men who were trying to score over him.

More than basketball however, Yao was changing the game with presence off of the court.

 

In his nine years Yao made the All-Star team 8 times thanks to a large fan base from his home land of China that rule routinely made him one of the top two vote getters. His impact helped the league grow exponentially in China as it now regularly sends reporters to the NBA’s main events. Since Yao’s arrival, China now regularly hosts numerous NBA players in the offseason such as Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant to hold camps in the country and help raise interest of the game.

 

Yao Ming gave us glimpses of what couldve been versus Shaq.

Yao had a documentary about his arrival in the league, and a string of commercials that introduced him to the American population and showed off his funny side. He was truly the league’s first true international star and was on his way to being one of the brightest stars that the game has ever seen.

 

Then came the injuries.

 

After his first three seasons where he only missed 2 games, Yao missed 25+ games in each of his final 6 seasons including all of the 2009-2010 campaign. Whether it was his big toe or a forever broken left foot Yao couldn’t stay on the court. It prevented from having as dominant of a career that was foreseen by so many people from scouts to fellow players.

 

In 2006-2007 Yao was averaging a career high 25 PPG and looked like a surefire MVP candidate before his foot began to give him problems. After the injury he could never reach the potential that was seen in that season and in glimpses in the next few years. His lower body robbed him of what could have been a stellar NBA career and robbed the fans of a superstar that could’ve shined as bright as Michael Jordan, Julius Erving and the other big names before him.

 

Yao Ming was an exceptional player. He was an All-Star, one of the best centers of his class, and was a cultural force that transcended the Eastern and Western Hemisphere.

 

Unfortunately thanks to injuries we never truly got to see what Yao was made of. He could’ve been an all-NBA selection, a finals champion, league MVP and a possible hall of famer. We saw shades of it when he played Shaq and Dwight Howard and other excellent big men down in the paint. We could’ve been watching one of the best players of our era.

 

But we will never know.


A Shaq For All Seasons

Shaquille O' Neal retired today after 19 seasons in the NBA.

What was Shaquille O’ Neal? Was he one of the greatest centers of all-time? A 4-time champion and 3-time MVP of the NBA Finals? A 15-time all-star, number 5 all-time scorer with 28,596 points?

 

Was he the most dominant big man that this generation had ever seen?

 

From the time that he stepped on the floor as the number one pick of the 1992 NBA Draft Shaq was a man amongst boys. He decimated foes in the paint with his size; he got to anywhere he wanted in the paint. No man on this earth could guard him (hence the Superman moniker), nor could they stop him, unless they fouled him. Once both of his size 22’s were in the paint it was senseless to try and stop him, the two points were his, just take it like a man and walk off.

 

Was he the most unbelievable big man that we ever saw?

 

As big as he was and as powerful as he was he had amazing finesse skills. He was this generation’s best passer able to suck in double teams and kick it out to any open shooter in his sightline. He had great footwork, which he learned after the greatest fleet-footed big man Hakeem Olajuwon schooled him in the 1995 Finals. He had a great spin move to get to the hole, an excellent jump hook that came from plenty of time put in his early years in L.A. however, his power dominated all especially when he brought rims down without even trying during his first few years in the league.

 

Ever since he came into the league Shaq has been the center of attention.

Was he the game’s best entertainer?

 

On and off of the court you couldn’t keep your eyes off of Shaq. When he wasn’t dunking on poor and helpless centers he was selling Pepsi without a hitch. When he wasn’t winning titles he was recording platinum rap albums and making hits with the Notorious B.I.G. a.k.a. Biggie Smalls. He starred in movies and extended his brand in a way that could’ve rivaled Michael Jordan. Shaq was never just a basketball player he was the first entertainer of the sport. When you see other athletes crossover to TV and film and music that’s because Shaq laid that blueprint down before anyone else. Shaq could do anything and he definitely did try.

 

Was he the biggest kid that the game has ever seen?

 

His playfulness was his best attribute. Shaq was a player who had no problem making a fool of himself. True, he was a hulking 7’1” and 325 pounds and an intimidating man if there ever was one. However, just look at some footage of Shaq break dancing at the all-star game, acting a fool on the bus at the Olympics, playing a living statue at Harvard or leading the Boston Pops. He had fun and made everyone laugh.

 

(Side note: the best bit of Shaq acting a fool was his short lived reality TV show “Shaq Vs.” he challenged athletes to contests in their own sport and went through it all with the same ridiculous over the top mannerisms that he has whenever there was a camera on him before or after games. It was athletic competition that he never took seriously and it was pure comedy.)

 

How great of a winner was he?

 

4 rings, 6 appearances with three teams. The funny yet sad thing about the Shaq era is that he only has one MVP in his 19 years in the league… ONE!!! Then when you look at some of the names that he lost out to (Tim Duncan, Steve Nash, Michael Jordan) you go, “Damn. That’s why.” However, MVP’s don’t truly make up who Shaq was as a player. In Game 7 versus Portland he with help from Kobe Bryant led the Lakers back from 15 down to reach the Finals. He dominated each of the Lakers title series in there three-peat years and continuously punished the Sacramento Kings and prevented from reaching a plateau than where they finished.

 

Shaq always had a fun side.

Could he have been better though?

 

To say that a man that scored over 28,000 points could’ve done better sounds silly, but he could’ve easily pushed past 30,000 if he wasn’t such a poor free throw shooter… and had stayed in shape.

 

The problem with Shaq in the second half of his career was his constant refusal to stay in shape. He missed 12 or more games in 8 of the 10 seasons after his first title and missed 20 or more games in 5 of those seasons. Truth is that Shaq got lazy and only focused on the second half of the season up until the playoffs. If he would’ve stayed healthy he could’ve been even more incredible as far as stats go.

 

Did he love drama?

 

Ask Penny Hardaway. Ask Dwyane Wade. Ask Kobe Bryant. Ask the cities of Orlando, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Miami and Cleveland about the departures of Shaquille O’ Neal and they wont have nice things to say. Shaq was a stubborn man, in his mind he knew what he was worth as a person and a player and wouldn’t settle for less. He wouldn’t let Kobe or Penny take his spotlight; he wouldn’t accept his playing time in Miami (or play with Chris Quinn as he once said). It was his greatest fault as a player and it cost him more love than what he already accumulated.

 

(Back to Kobe Bryant for a second. We’ve circled this wagon more than enough times in my lifetime than I would care to discuss. But imagine if they had put their differences aside and worked together more than they did.  They could’ve been greater than Jordan and Pippen, Gretzky and Messier and any other great tandem in the history of sports. When they were on the same page the Lakers were unstoppable. It was the perfect inside-outside tandem and they screwed it up. If there is any regret that Shaq should have in his career it’s the fact that if he and Kobe stayed together they could’ve won 8 championships together and people wouldn’t put Tim Duncan ahead of him as this generations best big man.)

 

What was he overall?

 

To me? The third best center of all-time (1. Bill Russell. 2. Wilt Chamberlain), the most dominant at his position in the last 30 years. The most immoveable object in the game. The most gentle of gentle giants who, if irked enough, could take Brad Miller’s head off with one swing, but would’ve rather helped out the police force in any city he played in and helped protect the law.

 

What much greater could his legacy have been if he and Kobe put aside their differences?

To me Shaq was more than a basketball player. He was a great role model with his charitable services to the community whether it be handing out toys or making public arrests. He was an educated man that made it a point to go back to LSU and receive his bachelor’s degree years after bolting for the NBA and then following that up with a Master’s Degree from the University of Phoenix.

 

He was a hell of a quote (favorite: “we’re not afraid of the Sacramento Queens.” OOOOOOOOHHHHHH SNAP!!!), whenever there was a microphone in front of him he always had something to say.

 

He was as imaginative and as playful as he was devastating in the paint. He always had a new nickname that made you laugh and was always in a playful mood.

 

He was just as special off of the court as he was on it. However, the court was his domain. There was never a player like Shaq before his arrival and there won’t be one now that he’s gone.

 

There wont be a center like him to roam the paint ever again. No one will have a combination of his size, strength and agility. No one will take over a game like he did, carry a team to three straight titles like he did and have the game in the palm of his hands like him.

 

Today is a sad day for me because I loved Shaq. I has his Dunkman Reebok shirt when he first came into the league and followed him every step of the way from Orlando to L.A. and everywhere else. He was one of a kind in everyway possible.

 

Thanks for the memories and you will be missed Shaq, Diesel, Wilt Chamberneezy, Superman, The Big Shaqtus, The Big Aristotle or whatever the heck else you call yourself.


The Notorious B.I.G.’s Legacy In Sports

Biggie Smalls was iller than you could've imagined.

If I wasn’t in the rap game

I’d probably have a key knee deep in the crack game

Because the streets is a short stop

Either you’re slingin crack rock or you got a wicked jumpshot

The Notorious B.I.G. died 14 years ago in a haze of bullets in downtown Los Angeles at the height of the media created East/ West coast hip-hop beef between himself and Tupac Shakur.

Before his death Biggie Smalls (one alias of his) left a legacy that still looms large in two fields of entertainment today, music and sports.

There’s long been the assertion that most rappers want to be athletes and vice versa. The link between rap and sports is connected by the fact that both genres share similarities in the fact that A, most of the well-known and popular rappers and athletes are African-American and B, that they shared similar upbringings before hitting the big time.

Allen Iverson, Michael Vick, Young Jeezy, Method Man, Baron Davis, Game, Nelly, Larry Hughes… the list goes on and on. Before all of these men started gaining million dollar income from albums and the field of play their families struggled in low income housing areas that were more havens for heathens the pop culture figures.

Michael Vick is one of the many popular athletes that have many similarities to Biggie and other rappers upbringings.

They all dreamed about getting out and making it big, you know “Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, when I was dead broke, man I couldn’t picture this 50 inch screen, money green leather sofa Got two rides, a limousine with a chauffeur.” Along the way to those successes they suffered the same type of ills and problems, lack of family structure (no father), living in the slums, feeling like they would never get out, then when they finally did no one understood them and always categorized them.

In a sense rappers and athletes are like kindred spirits. They’re the only ones that truly get each other. Its become a rarity these to not see a rapper shout out an athlete in song or the two aligning themselves to form some sort of bond whether its strictly business or an actual alliance amongst friends.

Think back to video footage of Edgerrin James and Trick Daddy hanging together in Miami on MTV, or the Jay-Z and LeBron James friendship or even Biggie himself with Shaquille O’Neal. The two genres of individuals have a level of comfort in one another that media, business moguls or other outsiders will never have.

Biggie more than any rapper brought this relationship to life. His lyrics personified each level of life that young black men from the ghetto were living in whether poor or when they got rich.

The lyric from the beginning of the article is from the first song off of his classic debut album Ready To Die and the song is titled “Things Done Changed.” It is a two bar description of what has become the do or die options of young black men from the ghettos of America in the last three decades, either ball on the court or stand on the block.

Ask Santonio Holmes who admitted to doing just that before he starred as a receiver at Ohio State University. Ask rapper Game born Jayceon Taylor) who said his life became consumed by drug dealing after a basketball scholarship to Washington State fell through (though Wazzu denies that claim.). For most people staring out of there project windows this was how we saw life fame on TV or in the crack game.

He also expressed the aggravation that we have felt as kids left without fathers (“Pop Duke left Mom Duke, The f***** took the back way.”). Athletes from James, Shaq, Prince Fielder and others didn’t have their biological father in their lives growing up to watch them become the athletes they are.

And of course “Mo Money, Mo Problems” has been the anthem for the last generation of young black men who discover success after a lifetime of hardship. Carmelo Anthony, Brandon Marshall and others have had run-ins with the law and have been under constant scrutiny due to their status of being young, rich black men in a professional market.

Think Carmelo doesnt know about Mo' Money Mo' Problems? Think again.

Biggie, as well as most rappers, resonates with athletes because he went through the same troubles as they have both in the slums and on top. He knew about life in the projects then going to the penthouse and all of the consequences that came with each move he made.

One of Biggie’s good friends was Shaquille O’Neal who grew up without his biological father in Newark, New Jersey and who was able to escape his environment to a better life of riches and fame in the NBA. Their bond came about thanks to a line on “Machine Gun Funk” off of Ready to Die. “I’m slammin’ niggas like Shaquille, s*** is real,” we’re Biggie’s words as he played himself and a criminal associate planning a caper.

That line started a relationship with Shaq that including a collaboration on Shaq’s third rap album Can’t Stop The Reign.

Shaq was like many athletes in the 90’s who tried to expand their name from the field to the microphone and be like their lyrical heroes and weave similar tales of their lifestyles. Cedric Ceballos, Deion Sanders, Chris Webber, Kobe Bryant and Iverson have all blessed the microphone in an effort to obtain a platinum plaque while emulating their favorite MC’s. While the results were mixed (mostly bad. That goes for you Roy Jones Jr. and Ron Artest.) the point was that due to their similar backgrounds athletes felt the need to pick up a microphone and show their skills, or lack of.

The same can be said for rappers trying to go pro. Master P gave it a go with tryout for the Raptors and Hornets and his son tried to ball on USC’s basketball team a few years ago.

Lets be thankful Allen Iverson's basketball career was longer than his rap career.

But more than anything the best way for both sides to come together is through the mutual respect of rappers shouting out their favorite ballers on record or the building of a relationship out of the studio and off of the field.

It’s always cool seeing Young Jeezy bring out LeBron at a concert or seeing David Ortiz snapping a flick with Dr. Dre because it’s out of respect for one another’s craft. Much like Biggie and Shaq, these friendship show the union of black men in similar scenarios coming together to show love and respect for one another. It’s an occurrence that is rarely seen in the actual environments where we once lived and serves as a teaching tool for kids in similar situations.

Beyond the relationship of athlete/rapper, Biggie showed all sides how to really live it up. Biggie’s visual displays of the spoils of his labor are what drove David Stern to adapt new rules as to how players dress when entering the NBA work environment.

When Biggie started rocking the Jesus piece, everyone followed. You still see the piece on the necks of James, Darnell Dockett and other athletes today. The Jesus piece is to black youth as the pinky ring was to the mob (though we still had to get a pinky ring thank you Henry Hill and Nicky Santoro.). When Biggie started sippin Cristal champagne, we all had to have it.

Biggie showed us the spoils of being young, black and famous. He pretty much bankrolled the designer Coogi and made Versace silk button ups a steady fashion accessory in hip-hop culture. Look at old photos of Jonathan Bender or JaMarcus Russell in one of those cable knitted multi-colored sweaters or think of the countless athletes in those free flowing shirts with some Versace glasses to match. How many dudes had to get something that resembled a Rolex after Big had one? I can’t afford one but I always have to have a nice looking watch on my arm

He was a trendsetter. Hell, his trends have lasted almost 20 years since he first jumped on the scene and are still seen in the NFL, NBA and MLB.

That’s why he lives on long past his death 14 years ago and through two or three different generations.

These two understand each other better than any of us ever will.

This morning on Twitter I saw Michael J. Smith, Chad Ochocinco, Jemele Hill and a bunch of my buddies in college posting random Biggie quotes from all of his songs. That’s a range of people from ages 20-40. When Biggie dies some of them were 6, I wasn’t in high school yet, others were starting their professional careers, yet we all know his lyrics word for word.

It’s funny that this year Biggie’s death anniversary fell on Ash Wednesday for me. It’s the beginning of Lent where we sacrifice something we love for a greater good and we mourn and repent for our sins. I mourned Biggie by listening to his entire catalog while fasting and posting a bunch of my favorite lyrics along the way. People would dispute that Biggie was nothing like Jesus and might’ve been a bigger heathen than most fallen martyr’s in entertainment.

But I’m from Brooklyn, New York. I knew of what Biggie spoke of. I knew people like Arizona Ron, Dark Skinned Jermaine and Sing from the 15th floor. I know about the dangers of life in those areas and what happens when you’re black and stumble upon some success in the real world. Everything with Biggie resonates with me from waking up “f***** up, pockets broke as hell,” to “talk s*** and get you neck slit quick,” to wanting a garage like cee-lo “4’s, 5’s and 6’s.”

Biggie was the good and bad in all of us where we are from. He was a great talent in a bad neighborhood with big aspirations and not enough people to understand. Like myself, Allen Iverson, Dez Bryant and others he didn’t care. His goal was make it, be great, look good and have fun doing it.

We all followed Biggie’s lead even to this day. We’ve forged similar relationship like he had with Shaq and that respect is still there.

I wish Big was here to see his influence, to see how many rappers follow his rhyme style, to see how many ballers follow his dress code and ways to live it up and to see how many people still spit his lyrics.

Biggie was influential in Hip-Hop’s uprising as well as the urban black athlete from his inception to way past his death. He made athletes aware of their surroundings and how similar they were in our upbringing. As we mourn/celebrate his legacy today I know that there other ways to make it out of the ghetto other than shooting hoops or selling crack. However, for the case of our generation, and for young black athletes, he let us know it was there and that not many of us were different from each other in who we were.

People like Iverson, Shaq, Randy Moss and others now knew someone understood them and that they could confide in people who had the same aspirations and goals as them. We should be thankful of Biggie for that. At least I am.