How much did he hold the attention of Boston sports fans?
Shortly after he announced on his Twitter account that he’d be posing as a statue in Harvard Square, Shaquille O’Neal was surrounded by thousands of Bostonians, wanting to take pictures with The Big Shamrock. There aren’t too many athletes, let only celebrities, who could create such a stir so quickly. Regardless of his contribution on the court, because of his stature, whatever Shaq says or posts on his Twitter account is essentially an instant news flash for Boston sports fans.
How big was his impact for the team/organization?
O’Neal joined the Celtics looking to capture an elusive fifth NBA championship ring for his trophy case and bring an 18th title to the organization. Shaq’s glory days, when he was considered the most dominant center to play the game, have long since passed. But, even at 38, O’Neal has plenty to offer -- when healthy -- and his 7.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game in limited minutes so far this season have shown that when healthy he can be a valuable role player on a championship-contending team.
How much would he be missed if he weren’t here?
The Celtics got along just fine without Shaquille O’Neal, winning a title three years before his arrival. This season, the C’s have shown they can win without Shaq, who has already missed four games with a knee injury. Off the court, though, you just can’t replace his entertainment value. We’d all be worse off if we never met his alter egos “Blackie Bulger: The Godfather of Sudbury” and Shaqeeta.
How much buzz does he create around the water cooler?
There may be no other athlete who has created more water cooler over the last 20 years. Over the course of his career, there’s been: Have you seen this Shaq guy who plays for LSU? Could Wilt Chamberlain or Bill Russell stop Shaq? Did you hear Shaq’s rap album? Who’s better: Shaq or Kobe? Have you seen “Kazaam”? Can Shaq win without Kobe? Did Shaq really say, “Kobe, how’s my @ss taste?” Can Shaq help LeBron win a title in Cleveland? Is Shaq going to be able to accept a lesser role with the Celtics? And, Have you seen the video of Shaq dressed as a woman, singing Beyonce? So, yeah, Shaq creates a little buzz around the water cooler.
How much emotion does he evoke at the mere mention of his name?
Everyone has an opinion on Shaq, and it’s probably changed six or seven times over the past 20 years. No matter what you think of him as a basketball player, it’s hard not to like him on some level, because he’s been so self-deprecating, giving himself nicknames like The Big Aristotle. The hatred from Boston fans of Shaq as a member of the Lakers has long since subsided. There’s little doubt that fans from his former stops in Orlando, Los Angeles, Miami, Phoenix and Cleveland dislike (and even despise) him. For now, though, the large majority of Celtics fans are happy to have him in town.
How hard would he be to replace?
In both sense of the word stature, it’s impossible to replace Shaquille O’Neal. He’s a 7-foot-1, 325-pound surefire Hall-of-Fame basketball player, rapper, actor and comedian. There may never be another Shaq. Actually, there will never be another Shaq. However, right now, as a Celtic, Shaquille O’Neal is far from irreplaceable. In fact, he is a replacement, filling up space until Kendrick Perkins returns from injury.
How polarizing is he to the city?
The signing of Shaq certainly polarized Celtics fans. In one camp, he was a washed-up version of himself whose presence could cause major distractions in the Celtics locker room. In the other, he was the best available option to plug the hole left by Kendrick Perkins’ knee injury. After a few weeks of debate, both camps seemed to merge, deciding that -- as long as he accepts a limited role -- there are far worse signings than picking up Shaq for the league minimum.
How polarizing is he to his team?
Celtics players have had as varied a history with Shaq as The Big Cactus has had nicknames. Glen Davis was dubbed “Baby Shaq” when he followed in O’Neal’s footsteps at LSU. Shaq was the man who gave Paul Pierce his nickname: “The Truth.” Kendrick Perkins flat out did not like Shaq prior to his arrival in Boston. Now? Perk and Shaq are two peas in a pod. One thing is for sure: Everybody in the Celtics locker has great respect for what Shaq has accomplished in his career. And they all seem to be glad to have him around, as evidenced by the Twitter videos of Nate Robinson and Rajon Rondo pulling pranks on him.
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