In an era that showcases electrifying dunks and killer crossovers, one aspect remains clear in the NBA: To win a championship a dominant center is needed.
Shaquille O’Neal has averaged 27 points, 12 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in 12 seasons.
O’Neal has made five NBA Finals appearances, won three titles with the Los Angeles Lakers, along with three Finals MVP awards, but for some reason his dominance has been taken for granted.
But the Lakers’ garbage has proven to be the Miami Heat’s treasure, and O’Neal has been a platinum piece in the 305 since his arrival in the July 14th trade, which sent Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, Brian Grant and a future first-round draft pick to the Lakers.
In The Miami Herald, O’Neal at his introductory press conference said, “I’m going to bring a championship to Miami, I promise that.”
Heat president Pat Riley was quoted by The Miami Herald during O’Neal’s press conference as saying: “We feel like we got the best player in the world in this particular transaction. We gave up three precious pieces. Brian Grant was one of our guys for four years. Lamar Odom and Caron Butler, we didn’t really have a chance to develop the kind of long-term relationship with them that we wanted,” Riley said. “But we feel like Shaquille is going to be part of this organization for a long time, and he wants to win, we want to win and everybody’s going to be successful. This was something that we could not pass up. The opportunity was too big.”
Thanks to a change in loyalty by the Lakers, O’Neal is now angry and focused on collecting more rings and making the Lakers regret the day they parted ways with O’Neal; a mission which begins tonight against the New Jersey Nets.
O’Neal is a space eater in the paint and now that he is in the centerless Eastern Conference, where he doesn’t have to constantly see Dirk Nowitski, Yao Ming, Vlade Divak and the other Western Conference centers who often take O’Neal out of his comfort zone.
By being in the Eastern Conference, O’Neal can sit in the paint to block shots and alter even more.
On the offensive end, O’neal has teammates in second-year player Dwayne Wade and 10-year veteran Eddie Jones who can and will give O’Neal the ball.
The Heat have added players to the roster who can play key roles in a possible championship run: Christian Laettner, Damon Jones, Keyon Dooling, Michael Doleac and Wesley Person are expected to make large contributions from the perimeter to aid O’Neal from possible double teams.
O’Neal is a proven winner. Since his arrival in the NBA, he has been an immovable object with the strength of ten men.
He has proven himself time and time again and this year will prove to be another defining year in the career of Shaquille O’Neal.
It will be one heck of a season to watch the heat rise from the pack of .500 teams in the NBA, and into the pent house suite, once occupied by the Lakers.
Serge Beaubrun is a junior broadcast journalism student from Miami. Contact him at airser2000 @yahoo.com.