What Shaq Meant to the Association and NBA Finals Game 2 Bold Predictions

While you sit down to watch Game 2 of the NBA Finals tonight, I hope you do so while mourning the official departure of Shaquille “Shaq” O’Neal, better known as Kazaam. Shaq is certainly one of the Association’s all-time best centers and if I’m counting, he’s borderline Top 11 best players ever.

Did you forget that Shaq was in Good Burger? I didn't.

More importantly, Shaq might be the most entertaining athlete anyone has ever known, highlighted by an array of entertainment ventures in the ‘90s. He’s made appearances in Kazaam, Blue Chips, Steel, and He Got Game. He also released four albums and who could forget Shaq-Fu? He’s probably the most lovable pro athlete of my lifetime, and it’s got me thinking: What happened to basketball players in entertainment?

While Shaq is probably the primary face of the professional athlete in the entertainment biz from the ‘90s, other examples off the top of my head include: Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Larry Johnson, Mugsy Bogues and Shawn Bradley in Space Jam; Gheorghe Muresan in My Giant; LJ again as Grand Ma-Ma in Family Matters; Penny Hardaway in Blue Chips; Ray Allen in He Got Game; Dennis Rodman in MTV’s The Rodman World Tour Kareem Adbul-Jabbar in Slam Dunk Ernest, Fresh Prince, Airplane, and BASEketball .

What happened? This is the first time I’ll probably type these words on this blog, but I want it to be understood that the idea I’m about to express is one that is assumed to be an overriding sentiment of every post I ever make — Why don’t we still do things like we did in the ‘90s?

But seriously, professional athletes in general and NBA players specifically were all over the place in the ‘90s. It was great. Basketball was in it’s golden age then and I can’t ever remember feeling so personally attached to athletes as I did then.

Sure, the game sucked. But we all played it. It had Shaq in it.

It’s too bad that we don’t see that any more. Sure, players show up off the court sometimes, but they do it exclusively out of commercial or advertising interests. I don’t get the feeling that guys are just using their celebrity status to show up in goofy TV shows or movies. In the ‘90s, I did get that feeling. And I loved how it made me feel about guys. I guess LJ on Family Matters was probably the most pure moment for me, one where I saw him appear and said to myself “I bet he watches this show every week just like I do.”

Why the turnaround in the 2000s? My theory is simple: Kobe Bryant was the face of the league when Jordan quit. In case people don’t know about Kobe, he’s pretty dedicated to basketball. Like, obsessively dedicated. He doesn’t do much to boost his personal brand or increase his influence or any of the PR buzzwords. He doesn’t use Facebook or Twitter. He plays basketball an awful lot. With Kobe as the focus of the league, the rest of the players just settled into his pattern and stopped all the shenanigans. Do you honestly think Kobe would appear on Family Matters in a dress? Exactly.

I’m really going to miss Shaq. He stands for everything I love about the ‘90s. Maybe more than anyone else. I’d say the most memorable Shaq moment for me is the Good Burger cameo pictured above. He had no business being in that movie, he just showed up in it. Runner up would be his appearance as the musical guest on All That. Yeah, I know, both of my favorite Shaq moments feature Kenan and Kel. But honestly, I can’t think of my favorite ’90s moment that doesn’t star those two.

Here are more Bold Predictions for tonight’s game:

Miami Heat

  • Mike Miller outscores one of the Big Three. Dallas moving predominantly into the zone will open the door for Miller.
  • LeBron plays 42 minutes without a foul
  • Wade scores 30 without making a 3-pointer

Dallas Mavericks

  • Jason Kidd leads the team in rebounding
  • Dirk scores 30, but only because he shoots 15+ free throws
  • DeShawn Stevenson surprises the world with 15 points exclusively from corner threes