Lost in the forced celebration and hullabaloo of the NBA's FU schedule release was Shaquille O'Neal's debut as an NBA analyst for Turner Sports. The Big Confucius appeared on NBA TV's coverage of the 2011-2012 NBA schedule release... that will only be fulfilled if we end that pesky lockout that nobody seems to want to end anytime soon. Seriously, has there ever been any less anticipated of a schedule release? The NBA owners want us to get excited about these games while pretending that their players don't exist???
Anyways... we all expect Shaq to be entertaining and quotable as an analyst, and he didn't disappoint in his first day at the new job, throwing a not so subtle dig at Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat. Here's what Shaq had to say about Miami's other superstar from USA Today...
"The Miami Heat, they've got a lot of great players, the 'Big 2.' They will be back," O'Neal said from Louisiana during the broadcast, when discussing the NBA Finals and how Dallas was able to beat Miami for the title. "LeBron James is taking a lot of criticism, but I know LeBron very well. He hears everything that everyone is saying, so I think he's going to come back and have an MVP year this year."
"Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, you know, they're great players, they're probably the greatest backcourt ever assembled," O'Neal said. "And you know, they're going to get back. They're going to get back. They play well, they went through a lot, they put a lot of pressure on themselves. That's how they like it. And they will be back."
The trouble with this these comments is this... Shaq has it wrong. First of all, making fun of Chris Bosh was en vogue back in October-March. At this point, knocking Chris Bosh is about as overdone and tired as Skip Bayless knocking LeBron James every day of the week. Dissing Chris Bosh was a fad that has come and gone, but at least it had a longer shelf life than planking. (What is that anyways?) Bosh actually earned my respect and the respect of many NBA fans around the country with his play in the NBA Playoffs and the Conference Finals and Finals specifically.
It was Chris Bosh that upped his scoring in the Conference Finals to 23.2 PPG from 12.8 against the Celtics when Miami desperately needed an inside presence against the imposing frontline of the Bulls. It was Chris Bosh that outscored LeBron James in the Finals. It was Chris Bosh that looked like he wasn't frightened of touching the ball in the 4th quarter. And, most importantly, it was Chris Bosh that actually looked like he gave a damn when the Heat finally lost to the Mavericks.
Going forward, if there is a "Big 2" for the Miami Heat, it's Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. No amount of regular season plaudits or awards, or even a missed NBA season, will erase the vivid memory of LeBron James cowering away from the spotlight and the moment where champions are made in the Finals. Wade may have been able to respond to the pressure as Shaq asserts (and he should know as Wade's sidekick during the 2006 Finals), but what has LeBron shown that says he will bounce back when it matters most. Perhaps it won't be LeBron James that will bounce back from all the criticism of the past year as O'Neal insinuates, but Chris Bosh.
Photo via Daylife.com