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Shaq To The Celtics: Not As Bad As It Seems

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Shaquille O’Neal officially joined the Celtics today, the team announced:

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“I am honored to be joining the Celtics,” said O’Neal. “I have played against Paul, Ray, Kevin, Rajon, and Jermaine for many years and it will be great to be able to call them my teammates. I cannot wait to get to Boston to get started in pursuit of another championship.”

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I want to find a reason to hate Shaq for this move. After all, he is a Laker great, who should and will have his number retired someday at Staples Center. He has no business joining L.A.’s historic rival, especially as the rivalry has been refreshed with two Finals matchups in the past three seasons.

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But I simply can’t. First of all, like most Laker fans, I was disappointed that Shaq and Kobe Bryant could no longer co-exist, and Shaq was traded to Miami after the 2004 season. But I never took sides, at least not to the point to muster up any hate. The Lakers had to choose to keep one of them, and they chose the younger, less injury-prone star in Kobe, and he proved to be the right choice over the long haul. The Shaq vs. Kobe debate just doesn’t exist any longer, as we have all moved on.

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If Shaq was the player of five years ago, this might be a story, but as it stands now Shaquille O’Neal is simply a complimentary player. No matter how larger than life his persona may seem, Shaq is very ordinary these days. This wreaks of Karl Malone in 2004 to me, and I suspect it will yield a similar, ring-less result in the end for Shaq.

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But this transaction does nothing to diminish Shaq’s standing as an all-time Laker. When his number eventually is retired by the team, I will stand and give Shaq a well-deserved ovation.