As I pen this post, reports remain rampant of a potential trade between the Phoenix Suns and the Cleveland Cavaliers, which would likely involve centers Shaquille O’Neal and Ben Wallace. While both of these players have admittedly “lost a little” since their respective prime periods, they carry reputations that are hard-earned and well-deserved; and, for what it’s worth, they’re both exceptionally good basketball players.
What’s intriguing to me is not just the trade in itself — but rather the prospect of Shaquille O’Neal playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers. This prospect is titillating for two reasons:
1. If one were to list the 3 greatest basketball players on the planet — right now — that list may very well include Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, and Dwyane Wade (remember: the guy’s been hurt). If the Shaq-to-Cleveland deal goes through, the Big Aristotle will have the rare distinction of playing center alongside (arguably) the 3 greatest players of a single generation. It’s hard to find any historical parallels here. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played with both the Big “O”, Oscar Robertson, and the legendary Magic Johnson. However, these partnerships happened amidst totally different eras.
In general, dynamic duos have remained together: think of Stockton and Malone, Jordan and Pippen, Bird and McHale. I mean — imagine Jordan leaving the Bulls and playing alongside Isaiah in Detroit, then soon after deciding to join the Blazers so he could run with the Glide. Such things just don’t happen.
2. Shaq and Kobe won 3 consecutive championships. When O’Neal left for Miami, people said he was washed up; yet he pushed young Dwyane Wade and the Heat to their first NBA title.
Now, Superman may be heading to a Cleveland team that has already been to the Finals, and which boasts an exceptional 41-11 record (with only a single home loss!). Could we possibly see the greatest center of the past 2 decades notch an NBA title with a 3rd different team? What’s more: will we get to see Shaquille O’Neal join what could legitimately become yet another Hall-of-Fame duo?