No one does nostalgia like the Lakers and they never did it better than Friday’s ceremony when it seemed like half the Hall of Fame emptied out to see them unveil Shaquille O’Neal’s statue.
Jerry West, Elgin Baylor (by the way, where’s his statue?), Phil Jackson, James Worthy, Snoop Dogg – even Kobe Bryant telling Shaq’s six children, “Your dad was a baaaad man,” were there. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar zinged Shaq and Kobe, noting many thought there was as much a chance of Kobe showing up as there was of Shaq making a free throw.
If Shaq was, indeed, the Most Dominant Ever as he claimed, so much of his potential was unfulfilled. His charm was boundless nonetheless, repeating his 2000 victory parade chant – “Caaan youuu dig it?”, musing about coming back at 3 or 4 a.m. when the street fair was over to gaze at his statue … even if he thought it looked more like Stone Cold Steve Austin dunking than him … showing how truly humbled he was.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, they’re similarly a memory throughout the NBA, inspiring little thought and no fear. There’s quiet contempt for their “Laker model” and “the Laker brand,” which didn’t even get them in the room with Kevin Durant after all their years focused on the day he would become a free agent.
Of course, they’re now under new management in the person of Magic Johnson, the lone Lakers icon who was missing Friday.
Johnson had more important business than celebrating the past. Now in charge of the future, he was in Memphis for the NCAA Tournament’s South Regional, tracking UCLA’s Lonzo Ball … who went down the drain with the rest of the Bruins, only more spectacularly, outquicked at every point and outscored, 39-10, by lightning-fast Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox.
If it was agonizing for the Bruins, it was an important thing for Johnson to see. With the Lakers hopeful of hanging on to their first-round pick, assuming they draw one in the top three, Magic…