In the intellectual community, it might be a step down to go from being the Big Aristotle to becoming the Big Leprechaun. But, indeed, Shaq is on his way to the land of Green.
One look at Boston’s roster can send any Celtics fan into a dreamland of possibilities, a world of “what ifs”. Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Shaq, even Jermaine O’Neal. Add Rasheed Wallace into the mix that only adds to the sense of wonder. This group of players 10 years ago would have been rolling over the entire league. It’s hard to believe that all these names are now collectively on the same team.
This past season, the Celtics were written off as being too old. In an improbable run, which included coming within 6 minutes of hoisting an 18th title, the Celtics indignantly defied skeptics who believed they no longer had what it takes. In this past offseason, when all eyes were on the marquee free agents, Boston had to worry about keeping its nucleus together as well. There were uneasy fans as Paul Pierce opted out of his contract. Ray Allen was looking like he might not be back. Nevertheless, both men were re-signed and things had obtained stability in Boston once again. But what kind of stability? This is an aging group of NBA players who looked like they ran out of gas in practically every 4th quarter they played in last year. Perhaps they are now too old to contend for a title or make a serious run in the playoffs.
When it seemed like the Celtics couldn’t get any older, they signed the oldest player of consequence in the league: Shaquille O’Neal. Nevertheless, signing Shaq is a wise move for Boston. At 38 years old, there is still plenty that Shaq can do. He can still score. He can still rebound. With starting center Kendrick Perkins out with an injury, Shaq adds much needed depth in the middle, the lack of which was Boston’s Achilles Heel against the Lakers. Most significantly, though, he’s Shaq. Even though he’s reaching the end of his career, Shaq still carries the mystique, still has his sense of humor and is still a superstar in his own right. A long way removed from his “I’ve won at every level except college or pro” comment, Shaq blossomed into a true winner in the NBA. He played in six finals. He won three titles in L.A. When the Lakers decided they would build around Kobe and not around him, Shaq was the first big name to take his talents to South Beach, where he won another title with Dwayne Wade, in what was only Wade’s third season.
Shaq cannot log the number of minutes or play an entire season any longer. However, he’s still Shaq, and come playoff time, the Celtics will be grateful that they have an even bigger Leprechaun bringing them luck.