Tuesday, July 23, 2024

THE 30 PLAYERS WHO DEFINED SLAM’S 30 YEARS: Shaquille O’Neal


For 3 many years we’ve coated many wonderful basketball characters, however some stand above the remaining—not solely due to their on-court expertise (although these are all the time related), however due to how they influenced and proceed to affect basketball tradition, and thus influenced SLAM. In the meantime, SLAM has additionally modified these gamers’ lives in numerous methods, as we’ve documented their careers with basic covers, legendary pictures, wonderful tales, compelling movies and extra.

We compiled a bunch of people (programming notice: 30 entries, not 30 individuals whole) who imply one thing particular to SLAM and to our viewers. Learn the full checklist right here and order your copy of SLAM 248, the place this checklist was initially printed, right here.


“Black Metal within the Hour of Chaos.” Purple “a” in chaos. To today, nonetheless, most likely probably the most sensible story title and opening unfold for a function within the historical past of this journal. The marginally out-of-focus stark-black and shaded- white Bob Berg portrait. Wanting like DaBaby’s daddy. Russ spent hours trying on the image and studying the story searching for the proper phrases to name it. Wanting on the image and studying the story once more. And once more. The story of the drama orbiting Shaq’s basketball world. Penny. Kobe. Lakers. Contracts. Free throws. No rings…but. Accidents. Shaunie. Hollywood. Profession. Then Russ yelled, “I acquired it!” Damned if he didn’t.

And whereas the brilliance of the title and unfold took heart stage, it was the story that grew to become the story. The story of getting Shaq to sit down for the interview and photograph shoot (Concern 34 + Shaq’s uni quantity 34 = Ranges), of giving us time that only a few athletes had given us (two days, if I’m appropriate?), of the madness and ignorance of us ready 5 years and 31 points (as Tony defined in his hilarious and equally sensible “Sixth Man” Ed. letter to open the problem) between covers with him on them. It was a narrative of society’s distinctive and weird love/hate relationship with Shaq. Of the love he gave the world and the hate it gave him in return. The story was a chaotic, all-over-the-place journey of the battle inside one of many best ballplayers we’d ever witnessed as he struggled between the facility and indifference between (and the significance of that indifference) greatness and dominance. And the way he selected dominance.

There’s additionally that distinction between being cherished and being beloved. What we discovered from and about Shaq over the 30-year relationship this journal has constructed with him is that generally it’s higher to be one than the opposite. All of it will depend on what you need to get out of life and the way you need the world to obtain you and your contributions. See, Shaq modified the course of this journal (and people of us who labored on the many years of tales which were achieved on him), what it could turn out to be, and our collective strategy in the way to make it what it will definitely grew to become. He taught us the way to stability persistence and persistence in strategy and storytelling. He taught us to anticipate nothing whereas being ready for something when it got here to plotting and planning tales. He (together with MJ and AI) taught us that icon athletes will all the time be extra essential to the reader than the author telling the story or photographer lensing it. Presence is a gift. He’s Him. There’s just one Shaquille O’Neal. Quite be cherished than beloved.

Aesthetically adjoining to his basketball prodigy was his potential to multi-hyphen on a Donald Glover-level that nobody understood whereas he was amassing Larry O’Briens. Stacking chips, hoisting trophies, spitting bars, dropping gems, shifting product, advertising and marketing desires, constructing manufacturers, getting levels, changing into police, rescuing cats, investing ingeniously, extending zeros right into a cultural and wealth-building account that already had extra commas than solely a handful of athletes who’d ever lived. The enormous wasn’t mild, he was sensible. One in every of none. The one MC Wu ought to have requested to GA on “C.R.E.A.M.” Nobody else woulda made sense.

There was a second towards the top of these two days with Shaq in 1999 when he made all of it make sense. The Lakers had gained 61 video games the earlier season and will have simply gained 70
had Shaq not missed 22 video games and performed via an damage as a substitute of saving himself for Might and June. He stated, “Had I performed, we woulda gained 75.” However successful 75 video games wasn’t the purpose, having the best document in NBA historical past wasn’t the purpose, simply successful a hoop wasn’t the purpose. It was the way in which he was going to steer the Lakers to ultimately win these rings that was. 

“Domination,” I bear in mind him saying. That he’d slightly undergo the playoffs unbeaten—one thing that no workforce in NBA historical past had ever achieved—than to go down in historical past with probably the most wins ever within the common season. As a result of, if nothing else is discovered about how Shaq flows in thoughts and course of, when it’s all stated and achieved, being unbeatable—and unbeaten—is larger than being the best. The very subsequent season the Lakers started their three-peat. That TWIsM life: completely different. 

He additionally stated one other prophetic factor that was hidden in that PE entitled story however used as a pull quote: “When the sport is over, they’re going to recollect my title.” Preach, n****. 




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