Shaquille O’Neal: Back where it all Began

I know it has been a long time since I written a piece, I’m a busy guy you know. But let me crack my fingers and get to typing these thoughts that are on my mind. Sometime early in March, The Orlando Magic announced that there would be a third individual that would be inducted into their Hall of Fame. Pat Williams who was there already deserves to be there as he brought Basketball to the Central Florida area and is known as the Orlando Magic “Good Luck charm” winning the draft lotteries in the early 90’s to be 1992 and 1993 to be exact. Nick Anderson deserved his spot for being the first pick in franchise history and being the Ambassador of the team and staying heavily involved in the Central Florida community. Shaquille O’Neal was announced as the third individual to be inducted this past Friday at the Amway Center in front of Magic fans that once adored the big fella down the street at the “O-Rena” in years past.

Listen, I was mad that he was getting recognized for his short stint with the Magic. Shaquille O’Neal put Orlando on the map, more like if you was in another planet with a telescope and zoomed in on the Southeastern part of the U.S.A. you would hear the arena rocking back in the days. This physical specimen teamed with another ultra-star in Penny Hardaway a year later in the 1993 draft after Magic traded away Chris Webber rights to acquire Hardaway.  O’Neal told management that Penny was the guy after being on set with him while filming Blue Chips and they proceeded to get the duo paired with some young talent in Nick Anderson, Dennis Scott and Brian Shaw to name a few. Orlando was the place to be, the team to root for. A Ton of Magic Jerseys were on display in the Tootsie Roll video and a lot people say to this day that those were one of the best jerseys to have. If there was a team that could compete with Jordan and Pippen and the rest of the Talented Bulls squad in the East , Orlando was that team.

Excuse me while I go down memory lane, guess you call that a throwback Thursday nowadays. This Magic team was stacked, fun to watch and literally had Magic fans were thinking of a Dynasty on Horizon. To keep this short, because this is where my memories come back to haunt me, swept by the underdog Houston Rockets in the 1995 NBA Finals. 1996 the Chicago Bulls were near flawless with their 72-10 record swept the Magic who won 60 games themselves. The Chicago Bulls were on a tear.  That summer rumors began flying about O’Neal leaving for Los Angeles.

The Orlando Sentinel, who does a great job of belittling players, conducted a poll to see if O’Neal was worth the money that the Lakers were offering, $121 Million. The rumors continued, this time detailing that before Orlando even drafted O’Neal there was a deal on the table for the Lakers to trade for him. Then another story arose about him having a baby out of wedlock and the Orlando Media criticized him for that. What ever O’Neal’s intentions were back in the days he took the offer and as a Magic fan it really hurt to see the most dominant big man leave the team I cheered for as a 11 year old kid.  It didn’t help my father and soon to be baby brother were Lakers fans. The quote I remember until this day: “Orlando is a dried up pond” got my blood boiling and every Shaq item I had as a kid was in the trash as I became infuriated with him. I take a lot of pride in where I grew up and the team I cheered for and the teams that he helped win NBA Championships became my personal rivals. I couldn’t stand the Lakers or the Miami Heat because he help those teams hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy by also playing with some fantastic wing players in Kobe Bryant and Dwayne Wade.

They always say Jealousy is Love and Hate at the same time. Watching Shaq’s success kills me because I knew he would be one of the greatest big men to play this game, He was literally a matchup nightmare. Honestly, He should have more than one MVP award, which is just an injustice after how much of an dominant force this guy was. So yes, seeing him succeed drove me nuts in all forms imaginable. Because who knows what would have happen if he stayed in Orlando? Or If Penny was to stay healthy?  Remember the rumors of Tim Duncan to Orlando? Can you imagine Shaq calling him and say hey Tim, me and you the Twin Towers part two in the southeast? Grant Hill who if was healthy was one hell of a player with the Detroit Pistons.

Don’t even get me drooling of a Tracy McGrady and Shaq pairing, that’s Penny and Shaq part two. Also Dwight Howard is a free agent and he looks at him and say I want you to take over the reigns for me in Orlando, you don’t think that would have set with Dwight some type of way? These are all hypotheticals and it stopped the day that Shaq signed with Lakers taking a risk on a unknown High School player in Kobe Bryant.  Looking at it now after having won three rings….it was a great move for Shaq.

Despite winning 4 championships, O’Neal would go on to throw salt on Dwight when he played for Orlando because it was another big man in town, Orlando was getting buzz again after finally getting out of cubby hole that his departure left, they were also rumors that the Magic would move to Kansas City. Dwight rejuvenated that franchise with a core of Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis, Vince Carter and Rafer Alston to name a few. There was a Inside the NBA on TNT broadcast where they showed highlights of a Magic game and Shaq said” That’s the place I built.” I want to say Chuck said no, that’s the Place Dwight Howard built, your place is being demolished a couple of blocks over.” It’s really Ironic that Dwight ended up being traded to the Lakers and hence the Orlando Magic is a farm team for the Lakers, which still irks me.

Recently Shaq stated “Sometimes, I regret leaving the Orlando Magic”, I honestly don’t know how to feel about that. I had friends share the article on my social media feeds which is how I got the news and they know how vocal of my dislike for Shaq. And to my surprise about 80% of the arena cheered for him. But with his recent comments, I am now confused. Was Shaq saying this because he was in the moment or it was the right thing to say? Does Shaq really mean this? He owns a Home in Orlando, He came to a few Magic games under his own power, no PR moves. My Mother who loves Shaq is telling me to let it go with other family and friends. I may be confused for awhile who knows, Because words are words unless I see action into place, so part of me wants me to believe Shaq and a part of me don’t.

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