Shaquille O’Neal, Shaq, Shaq Attaq, The Diesel, The Big Shamrock, The Big Fella, The Witness Protection, Superman, Surreal O’Neal, are some of the names of this larger-than-life superstar. However, I think Big Guy just about says it all. I have never seen a human as big as this guy.
I saw him in person one time when he was in Indianapolis as part of the Dream Team playing a pre-Olympic practice game. We were sitting in our seats above the tunnel where the players walked out from the locker room to the floor. It was like a scene from Jurassic Park where a glass of water sitting on the Jeep’s dashboard starts modulating in waves created as a result of the mere hulking size of a T-Rex approaching. The ground started to shake before anyone even saw the dinosaur. “Oh my God! There’s Shaq!” our boys exclaimed as he appeared from the dark tunnel into the light. Sure there’s Michael Jordan who we’ve seen many times as the rip roaring Chicago Bulls fanswe are, but we’ve never seen Shaq Attaq in person ever. I knew he was big, but he is literally the biggest human I have ever seen! When you see him in person dwarfing other NBA superstars who are big men in their own right it puts in in perspective in a big darn hurry. I thought if I was in the NBA when he played, I would just have to fake an injury every time we had to play his team. “Sorry, Coach, I feel a sprained ankle coming on. Yep, it’s a sprain alright or might even be a hairline fracture. ” The fact that anyone would be able to get through an entire 4 quarters of intense play against that guy completely stymied me. You have to give props to all those other players who took him on; let alone taking him on AND winning a championship. That points to the excellence and true grit of players like Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman. An era of basketball not to return anytime in my lifetime I would imagine.
Shaq is worth a lot of money sure, but most importantly he’s a man who could have bulldozed his way through his career leaving bodies and hard feelings in his wake, but he managed to be a fierce and dominant player while managing to maintain dignity and an excellence of character with a touch of whimsy and orneriness. I bring up Shaq in particular because he is such an imposing presence, but still has a charm and warmth emoting strength through chaos. I mean the guy is a policeman too. Can you imagine being pulled over and the hugest of huge people tumbles out of the squad car approaching your vehicle. What a sight that would be. He usually tries to be on the right side of any issue without being brash or ingenious. Without wanting to be a role model, I believe he has achieved that lofty of goals by his sheer presence and class.
This week there was a incident videotaped of Shaq doing a ride along with the local police and just hopping out and playing basketball with a group of kids in the street in front of their house. It’s one of the moments where no words need to be said, nobody needs to ask who that person is because as soon as he exits the car it can only be that Shaq guy. So many professional athletes are great guys and do many things in their communities, but something about this larger-than-life guy, Shaq Diesel, that makes us think everything might just be okay in this crazy world after-all. The guy is huge in every way – size, personality, heart, and purpose. If only he could shoot free-throws… Sandy