In the NBA any player who has been in the league for 18 years, has been a six time All-Star but hasn’t won a championship usually joins a team that has a high percentage shot at winning a trophy. Jermaine O’Neal is that player but for some reason he is playing out his career with the Phoenix Suns. He isn’t going quietly but that doesn’t mean he’s playing anywhere near how he used to be. He is making it hard for any other good team in the league to pluck him away from his misery.
The first half of his life in the league was full of potential and pure athletic ability. He was a big man with great hands and a high basketball IQ. He was acquired by then general manager Isiah Thomas of the Indiana Pacers off the Portland Trail Blazers bench. He rose up the ranks of centers and eventually made six Sll-Star appearances. Suddenly his life changed with the trade to the Toronto Raptors. As soon as he stepped on the court at the Air Canada Centre he got old very fast. His skills evaporated, attitude grew and the injuries mounted.
It was here that he realized it was about time to try to win some sort of trophy. He asked for a trade to the Miami Heat. The team couldn’t get it done. Then he bolted for the Boston Celtics after they had won a championship. The Heat acquired LeBron James and they won their championship without him. It was too late for the Celtics and hence for O’Neal.
His career seemed over as no one was calling his number. He decided to give it one last try and signed for the minimum with the hapless Suns. He hoped that his play would entice a good team to bring him over as use him as a piece to get closer to a trophy.
That hasn’t happened. He hasn’t played well at all. He’s averaged six points a game while only playing 20 minutes per night. He has the injury bug again and hasn’t been a good teammate. Rumors surfaced about him having a dust up with general manager Lance Blanks during the Lindsey Hunter hiring in late January. He believed that he should have been consulted on the hiring. He wanted someone else in the position such as then assistant coaches Dan Majerle or Elston Turner.
Whether that actually happened is debatable but the issue that strikes me is that O’Neal actually thinks he has pull in the league and on his team. In the NBA, respect comes with working hard, playing hard and winning trophies. He doesn’t and hasn’t done any of those. Respect might come with helping the young guys learn the ways of the league. He doesn’t do any of that either. Who does he think he is?
Most high schoolers like O’Neal come into the league with a bloated self-worth. They have been treated like gods their whole life and want the same in the league. It takes them a couple of years to settle down and then they begin to act like adults, start to take winning seriously and begin to respect the game. In my eyes, that isn’t who O’Neal is. His career started fading a long time ago and soon it’s about to end. He will leave the game the same way he entered with a whimper.
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