You have probably heard about this: Big man in the NBA decline fast. When they hit their early 30s, they don’t score as much, they can’t rebound no more and they get outhustled by younger folks on a regular basis. It is sad to watch one of the greatest big man to ever take a NBA court decline, but…and this is a major but…Shaquille O’Neal is doing something I have never heard or read about in the NBA history books. He is starting a comeback stats-wise.
Like most NBA superstars he could will his teams to victory and he would carry them when it mattered most. He earned every one of his rings, even the one he got with Miami. Of course, Dwayne Wade did more for them than Shaq in terms of numbers, but without Shaq, there is no way the Heat would have gone this far…you can quote me on that.
Anyway, Shaq is different than most big man superstars in NBA history. When they start to decline, they never come back, but Shaq…he is actually playing better right now than the last few years.
It was sad seeing him struggle within himself. Not being able to do what he used to do when he was younger, killed him on the court. He really struggled with his body, he never fully grasped why his body isn’t the same anymore. All the media attention went to “Shaq isn’t worth the 20 mil he gets per year” and his usual funny and entertaining interviews just seemed so odd. After watching the “Kobe Bryant Diss” most people thought Shaq got bitter instead of seeing it as what it is: just Shaq being Shaq. Or did anyone think it was as bitter when he was talking about Vlade Divac in the playoffs 7-8 years ago?
The public perception of Shaq changed from “one of the greatest big man ever” to “old, narcissistic, overpaid benchwarmer”. Now they rest him on back-to-backs, he sits out games from time to time, but he is a better center than most in the league even tho he is 36 years old.
This season Shaq is shooting .585% from the field, scoring 15+ points in about 25 minutes per game, grabbing 8 boards and blocking 1.3 shots per game plus most teams still have to double team him which gives Amare Stoudemire a bit more room to do what he does best: dunk on people. Last time Shaq scored more than 15 points per game for Phoenix was…uhm, never.
It is good to hear the TV announcers and the media guys on the web give him some love again. It would be just so wrong to have him end his career with all this bad rep people give him. Just appreciate him as who he is now and don’t compare him to who he used to be.
Have you ever seen a better 36-year old NBA center?