Does The Big Diesel Have Anything Left In The Tank?

Shaquille O’Neal woke up this morning in a position that can’t be anything but disheartening to a one time world-beater: nobody wants him.

Or, at least no one seems to agree with Shaq that he’s worth $5.8 million. Many have suggested some teams would take him for about $2 million.

It’s depressing to see him named on trade rumor lists with such has-beens as Allen Iverson and Tracy Macgrady. The explicit message is that these three one time great players are available, but the implicit message is that Shaq is just as corrosive to a team’s championship aspirations as the troubled Iverson and the human injury report that is T-Mac.

So although he’s probably going to play for a couple more years, I’m going to put Shaq’s career to bed now. I can’t stand to watch the shell of the Superman who’s footprint on the centerfold of SI for Kids inspired such wonder in my 3rd grade mind.

The last few years of Shaq’s career have made it hard to remember him as the human juggernaut that terrorized the league during the 2000-2001 season. In that season the Big Aristotle averaged 29pts, 13 rips, 4 dimes and nearly 3 swats. There isn’t a player alive today that I can imagine ever averaging those numbers for a month, let alone an entire season.

For old time’s sake, let’s just take a gander a younger Shaq.

Enjoy the devastating combination of pure, overwhelming force and the deft footwork of a ballroom dancer. The dynamite-blast dunks that left the splattered remains of his competition all over the baseline. The whirling post moves, the way he released the ball about 2 feet above the rim on his jump hook. The way he sprinted back down court after a ferocious lob slam, eyes

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HoopSpeak Network

His Own Man: LeBron James Finally Escapes Michael Jordan’s Shadow

Basketball has often driven Andrew Willingham and me to shouting matches that include probing questions meant to illuminate each other’s arguments such as “how do you get your whole head up Bill Simmons’s butt and still find a way to make that much noise?”

But unlike his usual featherweighted, hairbrained theories, Andrew’s most recent post may have more than a shade of truth in it. Shouldn’t we root for things to be done “the right way,” for our heroes to follow the virtues that put them in the pantheon of cultural icons?

What Andrew’s post really got me thinking about was whether my reaction was essentially naïve or cynical.

Was I a fatalistic consumer of a corporate game, willing to don the gaudy, titillating product mined from the bone dry well of optimism in the ravaged souls of Cleveland fans?

Had watching Seattle’s fan base endure a prolonged, slimy assault at the hands of millionaires far removed from the suffering they caused extinguished any idealism I may have had regarding the compact between a sports team or athlete and a city?

Had I really come to peace with the often disheartening nature of professional athletes and their callous and disinterested perspective towards people who quite literally are brought to tears by their triumphs and failures?

Or was the opposite extreme the reality?

Did my naiveté make me too forgiving of a spoiled 25 year old who showed awful judgment and perhaps even a suspect desire for personal excellence because I want sports to be about pure enjoyment?

Did a small-town excitement over the stars that will light up the Miami sky so overwhelm me that I could not see that the lofty arrangement has its origins in the gutters of betrayal?


Perhaps I was simply trying

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LeBron James and The Absence of Basketball Bushido

I can’t stand idly by anymore. Not after this: “LeBron Leaves Cleveland: Basketball Fans Rejoice?” Are you kidding me?!

As a writer, I understand it is part of the job to generate some controversy, but I can’t believe that a former Sonic fan would forget so quickly what it feels like to be abandoned by something you love.

While it is true that Cleveland still has a team, and while I’d love to have a LeBron-less Cavs than no team at all, it is also true that LeBron James was synonymous with basketball in Cleveland. He was the hometown hero, the Chosen One, the King of Akron; he single-handedly saved a perennially bad franchise and it meant something that he was from Cleveland. No player could have been as popular and as loved as LeBron James was in Cleveland.

As a former Seattle fan, and as someone who loves sports in general, I was rooting for LeBron to stay in Cleveland. Perhaps it is unfair, but I felt that LeBron choosing to stay would prove that there is some honor left in sports.

And as much as I love to see a super-elite triumvirate like James, Wade, and Bosh destroy lesser competition, I love a hometown hero more.

I had high hopes for LeBron. I cheered for him over Kobe. I felt that he was different than the super-ego superstars like Jordan, Kobe, and Shaq. I thought he might be the first superstar to care more about his teammates, his childhood friends, and his hometown than the Hollywood lifestyle or being featured in Hollywood Tonight and US Weekly. But as we found out, off the court, LeBron is no different than other egomaniacal superstars.

And on the court, we learned that LeBron doesn’t have the killer instinct and drive

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LeBron Leaves Cleveland: Basketball Fans Rejoice!

Since last Thursday, I’ve been oddly numb to the suffering of the Cleveland fans. In fact, I couldn’t even muster genuine contempt for the manner in which King James took his leave.

Many commentators and friends of mine have been moaning and sympathetically offering their support and rage to Clevelanders and all others who believed in the legend of the Cleveland Conqueror, the chosen one who would drive out the scourge of losing from the Mistake by the Lake.

Meanwhile, my mind immediately focused on what I believe is a far more significant result of his departure.

Maybe because I am a NBA eunuch, my fan-balls removed by the divine, unremorseful blade of “franchise relocation,” I did not flinch for my own testes when loyal Cleveland fans received a metal-toed boot to the collective nards.

Cleveland, I know it hurts. You’re rolling around on the ground clutching your groin and swearing furiously.

Yet as a Sonics widower I no longer have the capacity to feel such pain. And as a teamless fan I can say, with absolute certainty, that I would trade my position for yours in a heartbeat.

You will make He Who Shall Not Be Named a symbol of your despair– hatred and frustration naturally finding a collective symbol– but Seattle fans have been robbed of even this emotion. For us there is a hollow aching and a grayness in the pit of our stomachs when we watch Kevin Durant rain jumpers or glimpse David Stern’s reptilian grin, but you will be able to direct every once of scorn you can muster at LeBron each of the many times he will be on TV each season.

It may not sound like much, but at least it’s something.

Left ironically devoid of the capacity to empathize, I have assumed

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Phillip Roth and the LeBron James "Scandal"

I have been on a fiction binge recently, and just tore through Phillip Roth’s The Human Stain (2000 PEN/Faulkner Award Winner). It’s a great piece of writing on almost every level– I can’t recommend it highly enough. Roth masterfully balances intimate character details with broad social commentary in a way that is never heavy handed nor leaves a detail out of place.

But enough about literature, that’s probably not why you’re here.

I brought Roth to HoopSpeak because one of the novel’s primary themes—America’s particular penchant for persecution of social impropriety—resonated with me in light of the current LeBron uproar. In The Human Stain, the social backdrop is the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. But the moralistic chirping by Lebron-haters on the street, on TV and online is a bit much.

Here is a passage that sums up my thoughts on the outrage over LeBron’s handling of his free agency.

As Roth describes our consciousness in the current day (my edits in brackets).:

A century of destruction unlike any other in its extremity befalls and blights the human race—scores of millions of ordinary people condemned to suffer deprivation upon deprivation, atrocity upon atrocity, evil upon evil, half the world or more subjected to pathological sadism as social policy, whole societies organized and fettered by the fear of violent persecution, the degradation of individual life engineered on a scale unknown throughout human history, nations broken and enslaved by ideological criminals who rob them of everything, entire populations so demoralized as to be unable to get out of bed in the morning with the minutest desire to face the day . . . all the terrible touchstones presented by this century, and here they are up in arms about [LeBron James].  Here in America either it’s [LeBron James] or it’s [Lindsay Lohan]! 

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LeBron's PR Prescription: Win

Nearly all people I’ve read and talked to seem to be of the same mind: in the days leading up to the one hour “Decision” debacle, and in the announcement itself, LeBron James forever tarnished his legacy.

His farcical “breaking news” declaration and his lack of compassion for and awareness of his long-suffering fan base’s pain was shocking—especially for a man who has been a shrewd crafter his nationwide perception ever since he was 18.

Writers have taken the opportunity to shove LeBron’s entire existence into various conventional tragedies that describe a hero who would be king undone by his own hubris.

“LeBron is an egotistical guy who hasn’t won and therefore we should recast everything he has done in the light of failure, because this wasn’t just one decision, but the manifestation of the intrinsic weakness of his character.”

Some boys just want to have fun… and run South Beach in their 20's while winning NBA titles…

Some writers have already suggested the way in which this decision will factor into James’s NBA obituary. But anybody who has made their judgment about the effect that LeBron choosing to play with Wade and Bosh will have on his place in history fails to recognize an immutable law: that there is no history but revisionist history.

We see this all the time in literature. An author like Franz Kafka, who wrote in the early 20th century, gives birth to the adjective “Kafkaesque”—used to describe the darkly ironic situations characteristic of his work. Critics then use the work Kafkaesque even to describe novels and writers that wrote before Kafka ever put pen to paper. The effect is that what occurs or is learned in the future comes to modify our understanding of the past.

This is a pretty simple concept,

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