Watching Shaq get his number retired last night was like watching a dysfunctional family trying to be civil at Thanksgiving dinner. Although the ceremony was supposed to be a festive occasion you could cut the tension with a knife. There were so many storylines and subplots I would have sworn I was watching an episode of The Young and the Restless.
First there was Jerry West, the logo of the NBA and the architect of several Laker championships. He is the man responsible for trading for Kobe Bryant and signing Shaq in free agency yet his departure from the Lakers was rather auspicious. He left because the Buss family wouldn't give him part ownership in the team, but you can tell in his heart he will always be a Laker. His presence was rather awkward.
Then there was Phil Jackson. Even though he hasn't coached the Lakers in 2 years the fans and the players still have the utmost respect for what he helped the team accomplish and he is still as beloved in LA as when he coached the team to 5 championships. The applause for him was almost as loud as it was for Shaq. I can imagine Mike D'Antoni felt pretty uncomfortable as the chants of "We want Phil" went on for almost 30 seconds.
And what about Jeannie Buss? She's engaged to Phil, but her brother is so envious of his power and popularity he refused to hire him earlier this year in an attempt to establish his own legacy. With the Lakers in a dogfight for the final playoff spot in the Western conference it is obvious his plan has blown up in his face. Don't think I saw him last night.
And sadly, the number 34 was retired without the late great Jerry Buss being present. He was the foundation of the Laker dynasty and the man most responsible (other than the players) for the success of the team. The whole ceremony seemed incomplete without him around.
The most unusual thing about the whole evening was the speech Shaq gave after his number went into the rafters. He thanked his children, his mother, his father, Jerry West, Dr. Jerry Buss, Phil Jackson, Penny Marshall, Diane Cannon, Jack Nicholson, and the guy that wears the funny hats (can't remember his name), but no mention of Kobe Bryant or any of the teammates he played with for 10 years in Los Angeles. Are we to believe they were not major contributors to his success and ultimately his legacy?
I understand what it's like to hold grudges (I'm a Scorpio), but not to acknowledge any of your teammates does a disservice to their contributions. Even when you are the most dominant player of your era you don't win championships by yourself. Even if you don't want to mention your arch nemesis (the 4th leading scorer in the history of basketball) at least mention someone other than your family and management when your number gets retired. I'm a Shaq fan, but I think he could've handled the situation with a little more finesse. Your thoughts?