Great post from Arturo Garcia at Racialicious on how Shaq built a legacy through on the court achievements and by becoming “The People’s Giant”
Shaq made himself less intimidating by cultivating a persona that was, at the time he rose up the professional ranks, unique in the NBA: a funny, yet competent, giant. Not that O’Neal didn’t make his share of mistakes: not just his foul-mouthed rhymes directed at then-L.A. Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant, and their accompanying feud, but his racist taunt against Yao Ming in 2002; and [insert your own Kazaam joke here.]
But compared to other players of his era, O’Neal’s schtick was a breath of fresh air. Michael Jordan grabbed more titles and was in more commercials, but while MJ put on a good smile for the camera, everybody knew he was really happiest crushing somebody’s will. And neither Wilt nor an older Jordan would have been able to put on a display like this near the end of their runs: [link to Shaq & Jaberwockees at the NBA All Star Game]
Go check it out. Only one quibble, the reason Wilt couldn’t put on a display near the end of his run was because he played from 1958 to 1973. The country was in the midst of the Civil Rights Era. He played college ball at segregated Lawrence, Kansas. Jordan and O’Neal were worshiped at UNC in the 1980’s and LSU in the 1990’s respectively. Wilt didn’t have the opportunity to be what Shaq was today.