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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Shaq Vows to Soldier on When Surrendering is Probably the Better Option

Shaquille O'Neal recently declared, "I am the son of an army drill sergeant, and when we enlist, we go full term. So I've got two years left on my term and after that, I'll be looking to do other things." Keep in mind that he will be paid $20 million a year to finish his "term" when he is obviously only worth a fraction of that amount at this point and when his retirement could free up salary cap space that the Miami Heat could use to sign younger players who might actually be able to help the team to win some games. Somehow, it hardly seems like the height of loyalty or altruism for O'Neal to soldier on under these circumstances.

O'Neal's approach is much different than how Larry Bird handled the end of his career. If Bird had waited a little longer to announce his retirement during the summer of 1992 he could have pocketed millions more in guaranteed roster bonus money--but Bird did not want to receive money that he felt he had not earned.

O'Neal used to be a great player and no one can deny that he earned the money that he received in previous seasons. However, for him to suggest that he is continuing to play now because of his loyalty and commitment to the team is disingenuous beyond belief. Prolonging his career does not benefit the Heat and, most likely, does O'Neal's body no favors, either. I would not presume to tell anybody when he should retire but if O'Neal does decide to keep playing it would be nice if he did not act like he is some kind of military hero for doing so.

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posted by David Friedman @ 1:10 AM

12 comments

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12 Comments:

At Saturday, January 26, 2008 1:51:00 AM, Blogger Ben Q. Rock said...

I agree with you, David. It bothers me to read blog posts like this one -- from a professional journalist, no less! -- saying that O'Neal deserves to be an All-Star reserve based on his overall body of work. Ugh. Shaq does not need the encouragement.

 
At Saturday, January 26, 2008 3:20:00 AM, Anonymous smokie said...

lol cold blooded post! But I agree

 
At Saturday, January 26, 2008 5:12:00 AM, Anonymous jn said...

It should be mention that Bird cashed in the rest of his salary, and Shaq would do the same even if he retired. I guess they'd lose a bit of bonus money, and the insurance would allow the Heat to recoup some or most of it, and salary cap relief would arrive sooner.

But Shaq, like Bird or Magic or Jordan before him, will get his money retirement or not.

 
At Saturday, January 26, 2008 5:22:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

JN:

I'm not sure what you mean about Bird "cashing in." A player does not get paid anything after he retires (unless he is hired as a coach or has deferred payments coming). Bird's contract had a roster bonus, so if he had been on the roster by a certain date then he would have gotten millions more even if he retired the next day. The Celtics even encouraged Bird to hold off on announcing the decision so that they could pay him that money but he refused to do it. If Shaq retires after this season then he will not get $40 million from the Heat for the next two years. I'm not saying that he should retire; that's not my call--but if he keeps playing then he should not pretend that money is not a big factor in his decision, because he is not worth what he is being paid now and the Heat have no chance to win anything with him taking up that much cap room. If his primary motivation is doing his "soldierly" duty for the Heat, then Shaq would retire after this season and let the Heat get a jump start on rebuilding.

 
At Saturday, January 26, 2008 1:25:00 PM, Anonymous jn said...

I was under the impression that retired players were still paid their salaries in full. I mean, they remain on the books for yonks.

I'm pretty sure the Lakers finally got rid of Brian Grant's salary only recently.

 
At Saturday, January 26, 2008 4:02:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

JN:

I'm not a salary cap expert and I'm not sure what exactly Grant's situation is but my understanding is that players who voluntarily retire are not paid after they retire. For instance, Shawn Kemp was still getting paid long after he was out of the league because he had been let go; he had not retired at that time. If a player has a guaranteed contract and is cut then he is paid the remainder of that contract until/unless he signs with a new team. If the Heat cut Shaq (which will never happen, of course) then they have to pay him $40 million over the next two years but if he voluntarily retires then they don't have to pay him anything. As I said, it's not up to me to tell anyone to retire, let alone to leave $40 million on the table; I just find Shaq's comment to be very disingenuous, because the "loyalty" that he would show by continuing to play past this season will help only his bank account.

 
At Saturday, January 26, 2008 4:22:00 PM, Blogger vednam said...

Bird's actions were admirable, and I also agree that Shaq is trying to spin the situation to make himself look honorable. Still, I have no problem with Shaq playing out the rest of his contract (despite the fact that he's very overpaid).

Why? For one thing, the Heat knew of Shaq's history of conditioning problems so they should have thought twice before signing him to such a huge deal that runs through 2010, when Shaq will be 38. Jerry Buss saw this and decided not to overpay, and the Heat didn't have to overpay him either. Secondly, sports owners have shown no hesitation over the years to be ruthless and disregard a player's service and loyalty in order to save money (even the most "noble" organizations which supposedly value "team" and "character" above all else, such as the Patriots, have done this). In light of this fact, I don't have much sympathy for owners when the tables are turned.

 
At Saturday, January 26, 2008 4:37:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Vednam:

I agree with you; I don't feel sorry for the Heat at all. My quibble is with O'Neal's comment. This reminds me of when he boasted about how humble he is, apparently not realizing the irony involved. I also have a quibble with the fact that no other writer has apparently figured out that Shaq's "loyalty" is only going to reward his own bank account. The whole military analogy also wears thin when one recalls how he cussed out Tex Winter and how he has battled with other coaches about his conditioning, playing defense, etc. Of course, the analogy completely falls apart in reference to his infamous statement about getting hurt on "company time" and thus healing on "company time."

 
At Wednesday, January 30, 2008 9:45:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymous reggie

the heat should of known the diesel was going to go out soon after the championship he should retire now go out the big arostlye you meant so much to basketball in the post jordan era you are the most important and best player to me a top 8 player all time slam magazine and alot of basketball people would agree with that. you did your thing big fella you need to go out in the sunset now. because your contract is killing miami now. your dad was a drill seargent and you been a good marine in the league

 
At Wednesday, January 30, 2008 11:13:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Reggie:

This is just a guess, but I think that Shaq will come back for one more year and try to end his career on a better note than this one. Then, if he and the Heat can agree on buyout terms for the last year of his deal I think he will retire.

He has had a great career and no one wants to see it end this way, even if it could be argued that Shaq's lack of conditioning in previous years has something to do with what is happening to his body now.

 
At Sunday, April 20, 2008 7:33:00 PM, Anonymous oleskool said...

I am a big fan of shaq, have been even when he played for Orlando, but I am also a Military Man (USAF/SECURITY FORCES)I do not agree with shaq hanging on for the good of the team...what good.? his days are up and he will not help anyone win a championship. The only thing shaq is doing is blocking up money for a deserving player and team to move forward. The suns will not even make it out of the west, you can disregard them winning a Ring this year.

 
At Monday, April 21, 2008 4:58:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Oleskool:

Although Shaq looked like he was about done earlier this season in Miami, he has undergone a revival of sorts in Phx. Considering the personnel around him and the fact that he now accepts that he will not get the ball 30 times a game I still think that Phx has a chance to make some noise in the playoffs.

 

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