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Nobody Is More Focused Than Shaq ... On Being Shaq

Jul 30, 2009 – 3:30 PM
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David Whitley

David Whitley %BloggerTitle%

Shaquille O'NealYou are known by the company you keep. If that's truly the case, then Cleveland Cavaliers fans should be worried.

Shaquille O'Neal has been hanging out with Triple H, Crime Time and a midget named Hornswoggle. If you don't recognize them, congratulations.

They are pro wrestlers. And if you think that's bad, consider who else Shaq's been trying to see.

He attempted to crash the White House gates, perhaps to invite Barack Obama to be on his new reality show. It's called Shaq Vs., where O'Neal competes against other athletes in their sports.

Shaq undoubtedly thinks he could do a better job running the country than the current president. Before the red states weigh in, remember that Shaq would think the same thing if George Washington were still in the Oval Office.

Between his referee gig on WWE's Monday Night Raw, his TV show, his prolific Twittering and his White House non-visits, where does Shaq find the time to work at his real job?

He doesn't.

I was hoping the Cleveland trade would motivate Shaq to finally get his priorities straight, or at least show up at training camp weighing less than LeBron James' house. Now I'm afraid Cavs fans are going to discover what people in Orlando, LA , Miami and Phoenix already knew.

Shaq is far more interested in being Shaq than being a basketball player.

Being Shaq means pursuing every whim, indulging every desire and getting motivated when he darned well pleases. It means not doing everything you can to earn a champion's invitation to the White House.

Shaq will still go down as one of the all-time greats. But how much greater could he have been if he'd gotten maximum use out the most fearsome body in NBA history?

What if he'd had Michael Jordan's brain? OK, that's probably not fair, since nobody had MJ's drive and killer instinct.

So forget MJ, what if Shaq had had Wilt Chamberlain's attitude? When it comes to pure physical dominance, only Wilt could match Shaq.

Wilt certainly had his diversions, 20,000 of them if you believe him. But he always showed up to play, and his incredible stats prove it.

Shaq-o-philes will say only one statistic matters -- rings. O'Neal has four, twice as many as Wilt. Then you must ask how many more he would have had if his ego hadn't gotten in the way in LA?

Kobe Bryant shares plenty of blame for that divorce, but one thing that drove Kobe crazy was Shaq's work ethic. Kobe would spend the summers working on his jumper. Shaq would spend them working on another bad rap album. He'd show up in camp pushing 400 pounds and spend the season playing his way into shape.

That worked when Shaq was in his 20s. Not only is it harder in your 30s, but all that excess tonnage had a cumulative effect on O'Neal's joints. In the immortal words of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: "You try dragging Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes."

You try dragging half a Bill Walton or Bob Lanier up and down the court for 17 years, as Shaq has done.

Jabbar made that comment playing Roger Murdock, the co-captain of the doomed flight in the movie Airplane. The cockpit banter with Peter Graves was worthy of an Oscar, at least if you don't mind kids being asked if they've ever been to a Turkish prison.

There's nothing wrong with athletes pretending to be actors or having whatever fun they want on their time off. I wouldn't have thought twice if Dwight Howard had shown up to referee Monday Night Raw, mainly because I know he would be in the weight room the next day trying to get his biceps larger than Triple H's.

If he wasn't in the weight room, Howard would be in the gym trying to get his free-throw percentage over 50 percent. Shaq lost the benefit of that doubt around Kazaam, which was 13 years ago.

What will he do next to promote his brand? Fight Jose Canseco? Become the Mets GM? Start dating Kate Gosselin? Crash the next G8 Summit?

Simple basketball was never enough. He always wanted to be an entertainer, celebrity and multimedia giant. Shaq's done that, but at what cost?

He also wants to be remembered as the greatest center in Lakers history. The LA days were glorious, but Shaq's overall career will never match Roger Murdock's.

At Shaq's age, Kareem averaged 22.0 points and 7.9 rebounds. It's been five seasons since Shaq averaged 20 points a game.

Kareem averaged 10.1 points a game when he was 41. Shaq will probably weigh 1,001 pounds when he's 41.

You can pretend to be a lot of things, but you can't fake the hard work that leads to longevity. Shaq's act has worn thin, which is why his last two teams were glad to get rid of him and his bloated salary. It also didn't help that he ended up trashing Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Phil Jackson, Pat Riley, Stan Van Gundy and anyone else who threatened his status.

Even Shaq's not egocentric enough to think he'll be Cleveland 's main man. He'll provide plenty of quips, tweets and the occasional big game. But you can't be encouraged about the way Shaq's preparing his 37-year-old bones for the upcoming grind.

He still seems to think he can get by simply being Shaq. That's why he showed up unannounced to see the president.

"The white house wouldn't let me in," he wrote on Twitter. "whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?"

Because sometimes just being Shaq isn't enough. And this Shaq won't be enough to get the Cavaliers a real invitation to the Oval Office.

If it's any consolation, they can always go over to Hornswoggle's house.

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Latest Shaq Snapshots
NBA superstar Shaquille O'Neal holds a giant panda on his lap at the Panda Breeding Research Center in Chengdu, southwest China's Sichuan province on July 16, 2009. Shaq had earlier visited China's famed Shaolin Temple, the birthplace of Chinese kung fu, and said he was hoping to improve his martial arts skills and bring them to the basketball court. TOPSHOTS CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
AFP/Getty Images
AFP

Latest Shaq Photos

    FILE - In this Feb. 13, 2009 file photo, Phoenix Sun's center Shaquille O'Neal watches the NBA All-Star Rookie Challenge basketball game in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York, file)

    AP

    NBA superstar Shaquille O'Neal holds a giant panda on his lap at the Panda Breeding Research Center in Chengdu, southwest China's Sichuan province on July 16, 2009. Shaq had earlier visited China's famed Shaolin Temple, the birthplace of Chinese kung fu, and said he was hoping to improve his martial arts skills and bring them to the basketball court. TOPSHOTS CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

    AFP/Getty Images

    NBA superstar Shaquille O'Neal arrives at a school and later distributed basketballs the students while visiting Mianyang on July 14, 2009, a region in Sichuan province that was hit by a devastating earthquake in May 2008. School officials in southwest China have been slammed for confiscating basketballs that iconic NBA superstar Shaquille O'Neal signed and gave to four teenage boys at the school. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

    AFP/Getty Images

    NBA superstar Shaquille O'Neal fools around with his minders as he visits the Panda Breeding Research Center in Chengdu, southwest China's Sichuan province on July 16, 2009. Shaq had earlier visited China's famed Shaolin Temple, the birthplace of Chinese kung fu, and said he was hoping to improve his martial arts skills and bring them to the basketball court. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

    AFP/Getty Images

    NBA superstar Shaquille O'Neal gets mobbed by his Chinese fans after he held a basketball clinic at a school and later distributed the basketballs to the students while visiting Mianyang on July 14, 2009, a region in Sichuan province that was hit by a devastating earthquake in May 2008. School officials in southwest China have been slammed for confiscating basketballs that iconic NBA superstar Shaquille O'Neal signed and gave to four teenage boys at the school. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

    AFP/Getty Images

    NBA superstar Shaquille O'Neal conducts a basketball clinic at a school and later distributed the basketballs to the students while visiting Mianyang on July 14, 2009, a region in Sichuan province that was hit by a devastating earthquake in May 2008. School officials in southwest China have been slammed for confiscating basketballs that iconic NBA superstar Shaquille O'Neal signed and gave to four teenage boys at the school. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

    AFP/Getty Images

    NBA superstar Shaquille O'Neal conducts a basketball clinic at a school and later distributed the basketballs to the students while visiting Mianyang on July 14, 2009, a region in Sichuan province that was hit by a devastating earthquake in May 2008. School officials in southwest China have been slammed for confiscating basketballs that iconic NBA superstar Shaquille O'Neal signed and gave to four teenage boys at the school. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

    AFP/Getty Images

    MIANYANG, CHINA - JULY 14: (CHINA OUT) NBA Cleveland Cavaliers Shaquille O'Neal holds a child during his visit to a middle school which was hit by the Sichuan Earthquake on July 14, 2009 in Mianyang of Sichuan Province, China. (Photo by Lei Yuandong/ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Shaquille O'Neal

    Getty Images

    MIANYANG, CHINA - JULY 14: (CHINA OUT) NBA Cleveland Cavaliers Shaquille O'Neal is surrounded by fans during his visit to a middle school which was hit by the Sichuan Earthquake on July 14, 2009 in Mianyang of Sichuan Province, China. (Photo by Lei Yuandong/ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Shaquille O'Neal

    Getty Images

    MIANYANG, CHINA - JULY 14: (CHINA OUT) NBA Cleveland Cavaliers Shaquille O'Neal visits a middle school which was hit by the Sichuan Earthquake on July 14, 2009 in Mianyang of Sichuan Province, China. (Photo by Lei Yuandong/ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Shaquille O'Neal

    Getty Images

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