Shaquille O'Neal announced his retirement last Wednesday, which prompted a podcast devoted entirely to his career and legacy. Among the talking points:
- There's no question The Diesel had an incredible career, but as Brian noted, his raw talent allows a reasonable argument he could have gone down as the greatest of all time. Instead, he appeared content to be merely one of the greatest, which sparks a never-ending debate over how to regard O'Neal's career.
- Brian and I talk about Shaq's number being retired by the Lakers, which we both agree is the right call. However, as a Laker fan as well as a Laker writer, I also get why some fans remain honked at how Shaq treated the organization. This is a privilege bestowed on O'Neal by an iconic team as well as a "thank you." Thus, dignity would be a prerequisite, and that characteristic was often absent with Shaq. Again, as I wrote earlier this week, I think the achievements and historical impact ultimately outweighs the negatives, but I would never discount opposing opinions.
Also, should the Lakers first retire Kobe Bryant's number before Shaq? If that's the approach, expect Kobe to play well into his 50s just to make The Big Fella wait.
- We call shenanigans on Shaq's revisionist history presenting the feud with Kobe as an orchestrated master plan. The two didn't get along. Period. But was a peaches and cream relationship realistic in the first place? Reasonable? Yes. Particularly when you consider how well compensated both were for their "troubles" and the mutual success enjoyed. But as much as their bickering once frustrated me, I've come to realize it may have been more impressive that two alpha dogs tolerated each other for as long as they did. After all, we questioned whether Miami's big three could co-exist, and they're friends who moved heaven and earth to play together. Shaq and Kobe never asked for this, which created an automatic expiration date for their partnership, unprofessional and sad as that may feel.
- The time it took for Shaq to acknowledge he was no longer the MDE makes me wonder about the eventual transition Kobe will need to make. Hopefully, he'll handle it better than Shaq, but I sometimes worry he won't.
- Which do you prefer as a fan: An athlete obsessively driven to win, but often too serious to truly "like," or an athlete who never forgets sports is also entertainment, but often seems to prioritize fun ahead of excellence? We'll let you figure out which sportsman is Kobe and which one is Shaq in this hypothetical.
And finally, I checked the numbers and Brian was right: Benoit Benjamin was better than some people -- myself included, apparently -- remember. That Clipper stink is seriously powerful. For that matter, even while cognizant that Luc Longley has only a slightly better chance at the Hall of Fame than me, the wonderful scent of Chicago championships led me to recall his numbers a smidge too high.