I’ve never been a big fan of Shaquille O’Neal. I always thought a man his size should be more dominant than he was over the first several years of his career. But if I was content to rip Shaq for his shortcoming in years past, then I have to give him his due this year. Okay, he still can’t shoot free throws, but he’s a more complete player. Maybe some of the credit goes to Phil Jackson, but this season Shaq has dedicated himself to defense and rebounding and getting along with Kobe Bryant, and as a result, he’s led the Lakers into the finals. In game one against the Pacers he scored 43 points. Impressive. But the number that caught my eye was 19 rebounds. That’s hard work. Shaq is no longer just a big guy who catches the ball and dunks it. He’s developed his shot and his post moves. He runs the floor. He helps on “D”. Critics like to say he’s not as good as Chamberlain or Russell. Maybe not. But he’s a lot closer than anybody else I can think of. Besides, Chamberlain and Russell couldn’t rap.
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