Shaquille O’Neal may have played the final game in an illustrious career. Doc Rivers said he doubts Shaq will play tonight, two days after his deteriorating body limited him to only 3:31 in Game 4.
“There’s nothing he can do,” Rivers told Chris Forsberg. “It’s not like he’s not trying… He’s done everything possibly he can do to get healthy.”
As the storylines became plenty—the potential end of the Big Three era, Rondo’s one-armed revival, Wade and Lebron’s chance to relieve themselves of so many demons—the waning moments of Shaq’s career have been overlooked. Yes, he’s still under contract for next year. But judging from how this year unfolded, Shaq won’t, and shouldn’t, return next season. If he were toast, he would have popped up some time earlier this season (or some time two or three years ago, depending how you look at it). Which means his career might be over, and one of the greatest centers ever to play basketball will go out with a debilitating limp, after being outplayed by—wait for it—Joel Anthony.
Personally, I’ll remember Shaq fondly. Not because he was funny, or because he was a terrific actor (he wasn’t), or because he was a phenomenal rapper (ditto), or because he scored so many points, grabbed so many rebounds and won so many championships, but because he came to Boston to win one more. He made sacrifices we never knew his ego would allow him to. He gave the Celtics everything he had, accepting a diminished role, coming off the bench on occasion (something he had never done before in the NBA, except when he was injured). We can curse Shaq’s failed body all we want, but Doc’s right—he did everything he could to come back. He basically played Games 3 and 4 on crutches, because he thought his presence might give Boston a lift.
And if you can’t respect that, your whole perspective is whack. Maybe you’ll love Shaq when he fades to black.