04 June 2007

Reverse the Curse: Forgive Shaq and Bring Him Back

As the regular season drew to a close, I didn't think I'd have to write too many more rah-rah pieces for this blog. I'm proud of my last one, but I'm disappointed because it didn't seem to get anyone's attention, or if it did, it didn't alter any perceptions about this team. I guess that's to be expected, given the tiny amount of visitors this site had back then.

With Billy Donovan bailing out on the Magic after just three days, many people have expressed that they no longer care about the team, some even going as far to suggest the Magic relocate to Kansas City. Florida Gator fans are having a field day with this news, days after some of their number called us the "Whorelando Tragic" for "stealing" Billy away from them. Evidently, we're still a Mickey Mouse Town, at least in their eyes.

But I am not interested in the thoughts of small-minded people. We, as Magic fans, have two options at this crucial juncture in the franchise's history: we can bemoan our past failures, or we can look for ways to secure a brighter future for this team.

There's one easy choice the Magic can make that I believe will reverse the curse and restore this franchise to glory:

Bring back Shaq.

The Magic have been, at best, mediocre since the Diesel left us in 1996 -- a regular-season record of 442-448 (.485) and a postseason record of 8-20 (.286) including no series wins. During that same time period, he's has won four NBA titles and won three NBA Finals MVP awards. Considering the respective fates of the Magic and Shaq since 1996, it's no wonder that some believe in the Curse of the Shaqino.

Photo by Pier Nicola D'Amico

Is bringing him back really that crazy of an idea? Not to Shaq; take a look at this excerpt from an interview with Lang Whitaker appearing in the July 2007 issue of SLAM Magazine, pictured above:
SLAM: I've heard you talk more and more over the last year or so about wanting to buy an NBA team when you retire. Is that something you're serious about?
SHAQ: Yeah, I would like to either work for this organization [Miami] or work for Orlando.
SLAM: In what capacity?
SHAQ: General manager? President? I don't want no BS job. "Director of SLAM Magazine!" [Laughs]
SLAM: Director of alumni relations?
SHAQ: [Laughing] Exactly! If I'm gonna do this, it'll probably be a real job.
That much is settled: Shaq hasn't ruled out returning to the Magic. Perhaps the best way for him to do that is to join the team in a consultant role once he retires from playing. And is there anyone on Earth more qualified than Shaq to teach Dwight Howard what it takes to dominate the post? Further, could there be a more compelling story in basketball than the once-scorned superstar returning to the city he abandoned to save it from certain death? Talk about redemption.

Former franchise cornerstones returning to mentor future stars isn't unprecedented. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, perhaps the best center in the history of the game, currently works with the Los Angeles Lakers' eighteen-year-old center Andrew Bynum, a potential superstar.

Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein

Shaq's contract with the Heat runs through the 2009/2010 season at a whopping $20 M per year. Assume for a moment that Shaq plays out his contract with the Heat, retires from playing, and joins the Magic to tutor Howard beginning in the 2010/2011 season. Our All-Star center will be 24, in his physical prime, and under the guidance of the most physically dominant player of all-time. I can't think of a better way for this story to play out.

He left us a long time ago, Magic fans. His statement that he was "a big fish in a small pond" in Orlando was hyperbolic. He wants to return here once his playing days are over. For the sake of the franchise, we must forgive him for his past transgressions and embrace Shaquille.

He brought us hope once.

Photo by Don Ryan
He can bring it again.

UPDATE: Just as I posted this piece, I was shown this one by Jemele Hill, the former Orlando Sentinel columnist who has now found a home on ESPN's Page 2. It's a short and enlightening read.


TJ said...

While having Shaq back in the organization, I rather see him in a role that supports removing the current ownership. There is no Shaq curse on the franchise. There is a DeVos curse on the franchise. Bad business is what has caused all this misery over the last few years. Put competent ownership in place, and I guarantee the 'luck' will change.

Alfred said...

hard to figure how valuable shaq would be (assuming he wouldn't be playing, and his value therein in the coming years is questionable as well) as a "consultant" or front office figurehead. I guess he'd be good for mentoring Howard, but what kind of chops has he shown so far in regards to coaching? Although obviously he's one of the best bigs to every play, that doesn't always translate to passing it along. Shaq does seem to be a good communicator though, and he's hugely respected by the whole league, especially the younger players, so it could be a big plus.

in ref: Donovan. Shit. what a pussy. He probably made the right move, for him, for his career, yadda yadda (the Wojniekowski (sp?) column on yahoo today was interesting), but, Jesus, grow some balls. If you're gonna commit to something, don't weasel out a day later. pathetic.

Carter Blanchard said...

Uf.. you guys are getting no love:

Way to go Pat. So who gets to be stoked to be option number 3?

Black and Blue said...



Ben Q. Rock said...

TJ, I agree that the DeVos family has to take a lot of blame for what's gone wrong in the organization, but I don't know if I'd call their involvement a 'curse'. Hopefully they'll get an arena built at some point, and all will be forgiven.

Alfred, if Shaq can teach six teenagers how to get in shape on his ABC TV show, I think he can teach Dwight how to operate in the post. And yes, Donovan's move was cowardly. I still can't bring myself to hate him, though.

Carter, we lucked out with Stan the Man. I was surprised that we got him, but it did look bleak there for a second.

Black and Blue, high five!