Thursday, June 16, 2011

The BIG Good-Bye

Recently In the sports world, a major announcement was made. After 19 seasons in the NBA, Center Shaquille O’Neal officially retired from professional basketball. Shaq has been one the most dominate players the game has ever seen. With 5 trips to the Finals & winning 4(3 Lakers/1 Heat) MVP awards and more than enough stats to make him a lock as a Hall Of Fame inductee, he’s hanging up his jersey.

Shaq has not only wowed on the court; he has been a successful recording artist (Shaq Diesel –platinum, Shaq-Fu: The Return –Gold) starred in movies, featured in video games, television shows, commercials, etc…he has done what most only dream of and is only 39. This being said, he has been living his life to the fullest.

There have been many great professional athletes; ones who will be remembered as “The Best” or “The Greatest”. Men and women that relentlessly and almost psychotically drive themselves to be number 1; some to the point of sacrificing friendships and neglecting their families. Drive and ambition are wonderful, but if you live life travelling at 100mph, yes you’ll reach your destination but often without recollection of the journey…and alone.

Michael Jordan is respected the world over for his accomplishments as a businessman and professional athlete. He is the mold that every young basketball player aspires to. (6 championships, Scoring titles, multiple MVP awards, multiple All Star honors, Defensive Awards) He accomplished everything he could do, even helping to orchestrate an unheard of 72 win season and 3-peating…TWICE. He even had a theme song, ”Sometimes I dream…that he is me…” During his career, he was known to be a perfectionist to the point of abuse (physical and verbal abuse during practice was common). There is even a story about Michael punching a teammate in the eye during practice for not successfully executing a “pick and roll”.

Jordan’s greatness came as the result of his years of obsession. Even his recreation was often fueled by competition, betting on everything from billiards, to a pick-up game of basketball, to golf. That “need to win” can be seen in another player, Shaq’s former teammate Kobe Bryant; someone else who sacrifices everything and nearly everyone to feed his competitive spirit.

Michael Jordan is the “Greatest” and Kobe will definitely be in the conversation for “Top 5” when he’s done, but at what cost? Michael’s wife left him, he had to go back to work to find peace, and Kobe will probably be buried under the floor boards of the Staples Center with a statue out front that Vanessa and the girls will dust off occasionally.

Shaquille O’Neal proved that it wasn’t about a team or city, (Magic, Lakers, Heat, Suns, Cavaliers, Celtics) it was about the game and the opportunities. He played with or against some of the best the NBA has ever known. He was teammates with Penny Hardaway, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James, and Steve Nash. He was even teammates with Jordan in the All Star game while battling the likes of David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwan & Charles Barkley in the regular season, always maintaining a smile. Shaq leaves us with countless memories; from crashing down rims, to his antics off the court, and of course…”Kazaam”. We’ll miss you. As a Lakers fan I’m glad to hear they’ll be retiring his jersey in L.A. Love him or hate him, Shaq has shown us that you can still focus and be great at your job…AND LIVE!

…if I could be like…SHAQ.

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