Bengals’ Pocket Shaq on Shaq

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on June 2, 2011 – 7:19 pm

Willie Anderson, The Pocket Shaq, had some interesting thoughts in wake of Shaquille O’Neal’s retirement after 19 seasons in the NBA.

As usual, because Big Willie Aristotle always has something interesting to say, the trait that made him a media darling during his 12 seasons in Cincinnati. How could he not be with quotes like “The blessing and the curse,” his benediction of Corey Dillon’s record 278 yards (“It’s a day of immortality”) and his response at seeing Carson Palmer on the training table in the ’06 playoffs (“Everybody has to get on the prayer trail”)?

In part, it turns out, because of O’Neal.

“Think of it,” Anderson says. “You’re 19, 20 years old and you see this 7-foot, 300-pound guy with this great personality always getting interviewed. For me, yeah, he was an influence. He made big guys relevant. He made being a big man cool. It was never like that in the ’80s. You had to be Michael Jordan. You had to be a guard, or in football a running back or quarterback. But after Shaq came into the NBA, it was like it was OK to interview linemen.”

He also counts the rapper Notorious B.I.G. as another guy that “made being big relevant,” but for the 6-5, 340-pound Anderson and his 19 Triple E shoes that dominated the right tackle spot, O’Neal was the pro athlete measuring stick.

He remembers his first road trip with the Bengals in his rookie season of 1996, four years after O’Neal was the top pick in the NBA Draft. One of the many things Anderson noticed about him was his sharply tailored suits and for the impressionable youngster from Mobile, Ala., O’Neal was the first big man he saw dress so carefully and well. When the 21-year-old Anderson showed up for the bus in a suit, the veteran offensive line draped in the boots, jeans and open-neck shirts of Joe Walter, Rich Braham and Darrick Brilz gave it to Anderson pretty good.

“He ushered in a new era, but it hadn’t happened yet,” Anderson says with a laugh. “But now you always see linemen dress well on the road. They’ve got a lot of material to use and now we can look just as good as the skilled guys.”

Anderson met O’Neal a couple of times and once was on another Bengals road trip, this one in 2003 when the Lakers were staying in the same Arizona hotel.

“When we shook hands, his hand reached up past my wrist,” Anderson says. “That’s when I figured out why he couldn’t shoot.”

Anderson, an all-state high school basketball player, laughs when told he’s the Shaq of the Bengals.

“But I can make a free throw in crunch time,” he says.

Anderson can talk NBA with anyone, including a non-cool-lifelong Celtics fans that firmly believes William Felton Russell is not only the greatest center of all time, but the greatest player of all time. (No one else has 11 rings and no one else got the last two as a player-coach.)

We’ve been having this discussion for 15 years, longer than Bill Russell’s career, and on Thursday, Anderson rated his top centers of all time in order: Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Russell and Shaq.

“Wilt put up numbers the kids today just don’t understand. Kareem is the all-time leading scorer while winning titles. Russell was the dominant player on a dominant team. The NBA did two things to stop Shaq: They made the goals stronger and they put in the zone defense. They instituted the zone purely to stop Shaq. That meant two guys could cover him. He was killing people before that. And he was an underrated passer.”

I hear you, Willie.

But Russell stared down Chamberlain in seven of their eight postseason series, proving yet again great defense usually beats great offense. Russell won more than Jabbar and was a better all-around player. And they changed the rules for Russell, too. After Russell led San Francisco to the 1955 NCAA title, they widened the free throw lane from 10 to 12 feet and goaltending was outlawed.

Yet, you sold me on Shaq and ever since then I enjoyed watching him. Great passer, great awareness, great offensive force. And, I agree with you. If Shaq didn’t break down late in the season and the Celtics didn’t trade Kendrick Perkins, the Heat is the greatest disappointment in the history of pop culture.

OK, just sports pop culture but that’s what hype does to you.

Thus, we salute Shaq and Pocket Shaq, two guys always better than the hype.

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Posted in Hobson's Choice | 5 Comments »

5 Responses to “Bengals’ Pocket Shaq on Shaq”

  1. By bengalpirate on Jun 3, 2011 | Reply

    Geoff, once again kudos for changing up the topic, but tying it back to Bengals talk. I would rate the NBA centers in order as: Russell, 11 NBA titles in 13 seasons and the consummate, team player, leader and shot blocker extraordinaire. Also won 8 consecutive NBA titles, which I doubt any team will ever come close to again. Next, I would make Abdul-Jabbar my number 2 NBA center, as he won 6 NBA titles, as well as setting NBA and NCAA standard for what a modern center should epitomize. I would put Chamberlain 3rd on my list, just for the sheer ability he had, but he loses points for lack of NBA titles, only 2, and less of a team player than Russell. Sorry Pocket Shaq, but Shaq comes in 4th in my straw poll, as he may have been one of the most dominant FG percentage shooting centers in history, but gets dragged way down on his horrible FT percentage. I also admit my feelings about Russell’s rating are somewhat prejudiced by my love of everything Boston sports, growing up as a kid in Southwest Ohio.

  2. By kaptkurt on Jun 3, 2011 | Reply

    Great job as usual. The comparison to Big Willie is awesome. Shaq passing up the opportunity to pile on Kobe when he won a Championship in Miami is classic. Unfortunately big men in the NBA are easier to get into the Hall of Fame than the NFL (unless you sack a bunch). Willie Anderson was the best player for the Bengals during the Dark Ages and was arguably as dominant at his position as Kenny Anderson ever was. How many articles did you write claiming he didn’t get the respect or credit he deserved.when he was snubbed for the Pro bowl on an annual basis. The good news is once Marvin started to turn things around, he finally made it but he should have had more. He might have missed 2 or 3 games at most over a 10 year period. One of the unsung heroes in the NFL. Another interesting comparison is Willie and Andrew Whitwoth. Leaders you want on your team who don’t get their props outside Bengal nation.

  3. By 2ndboot on Jun 6, 2011 | Reply

    It’s kind of like comparing Lady Gaga to Bob Dylan in a lot of ways. Hey, both singers and both famous and both rose fast.. There is a bit of difference the gender not withstanding. The times were completely different though. Shaq played in the 80s on up while Russel played way back when before most fans were even born. I remember when Kareem was still Lew Al Cinder and the Dayton Flyers played UCLA.. Man..I still remember my dad calling him every name except for Lew Al Cinder because from my little boy’s mind he was some sort of evil force from UCLA. Sure..the game is still the game, but rules in sports have changed the culture of the game just as in baseball. I grew up listening to my grandfather who had been a minor league catcher back before the great depression and he taught us to play ball what today is considered dirty, but in his day beaning a guy was every day and chopping a guys legs up with spikes was just a part of the game..He had the scars to prove it. He caught without shin guards most games. Who would have even dreamed someday Big Willie would have 1000s of twitter followers AFTER he retired much less in his prime playing days? The times they are a changing….

  4. By jamison007 on Jun 11, 2011 | Reply

    Speaking about hype. It is time and hopefuly already in the works, for our Coach to take back our locker room by queing up a deal for Ocho. Its too bad, but he has hyped himself into such a frenzy he affects most likely more talented receivers along side and behind him. Even if he has a great year this year, which most likely he will not, I would rather have our young receivers a clean slate to gel with Dalton and have a fair and fun competition in whatever shortened training camp may transpire. To trade one good player so that four others will play better, is the smartest thing to do. The rest of our locker room has a chance to put together a genuine identity together, IF the Ocho attitude is taken out. By the way Hobson, sticking to my schedule and siging up for the 10k on Turkey Day in Cincy…Who Dey!?

  5. By mwindle1973 on Jun 15, 2011 | Reply

    Russell is undoubtedly the nest center in the history of the NBA. Kareem and Wilt are great and defintiely #2 &#3 in some order. But how did Shaq get on the list at #4?? What about Moses Malone (one of only 7 guys to win 3 MVPs)? Hakeem Olajuwon? Bill Walton? Even David Robinson, Patric Ewing adn George Mikan could be considered beyond Shaq. Don’t get me wrong the guy was great. But he defintiely belongs behind Olajuwon & Malone. I have three issues with him and why I think he’s over-rated. 1) When MJ left the league it wasn’t Shaq who dominated it. It was Olajuwon who won 2 rings while Jordan played MLB. 2) It took him a long time to become the kind of force in the middle that wins championships…at least until 98 or 99. 3) I’ve mentioned 9 other centers. They were all the undeniable leaders of their teams. Shaq was never the leader of any team he was on. Also Shaq will always be the laziest C on any top 10 list you can compile. Makes Wilt look like a hustler! Imagine with Shaq’s size and skills if he had acutally ever been in shape enough to run down to the other side of the court.

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