The Los Angeles Lakers are honoring some of their greats this year. They are unveiling a statue of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar outside the Staples Center and are retiring jersey number 52 in honor of Jamal Wilkes and #34 in honor of Shaquille O’Neal.
This is where some of today’s stars should learn a lesson. “Ring Chasing” is all the rage now in the NBA. Star players cannot wait to leave the small markets of Milwaukee, Cleveland, New Orleans, and Orlando to team up with fellow superstars in a big market like New York, Boston, or Los Angeles to win NBA championships and also cash in on endorsements.
But there is one thing they forget about and that is what happens after you are done playing? Shaq will be one of four centers to have his jersey retired by the Lakers. There is George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar already up there. Those are just the centers. You still have Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Gail Goodrich, Jerry West and a whole lot of others. One day Dwight Howard will likely join them. We know Kobe Bryant will.
Had Shaq stayed with the Orlando Magic, there is a decent chance he would have eventually won some championship rings. In his four years there the Magic went to the Eastern Conference Finals twice and the NBA Finals once.
Not only that, if he were getting his jersey put up in the rafters of the Amway Center right now, his would be the only one up there. How many NBA players get that opportunity? I’ would guess there aren’t very many.
After Shaq left, basically giving Orlando the one finger salute on his way out the door, there is no way the fans will allow the Magic to retire his jersey. And that also goes for Dwight Howard too.
If guys want to go free agent and chase rings, I can’t really blame them. That is after all why you play the game. But somebody should get into their ears and warn them that retirement gets here awfully quick. It would behoove these guys not to burn their bridges behind them on the way out the door.