When the Cleveland Cavaliers traded for Shaquille O’Neal before the start of the 2009-10 season, it was certainly met with mixed reviews. But whether it was ever really the smartest move or if it was instead a reactionary move meant only to deal with the Orlando Magic, the fact remains that Shaq represented a symbol of hope in Cleveland.
Fans here in Cleveland were smart enough to know that the Cavaliers were not getting THE Shaquille O’Neal. No, they were getting the watered down version. But still, the hope was that pairing Shaq and LeBron would be enough. That it would be just the push the team needed to get over the hump.
Of course that never happened. Instead, Shaq was injured for most of his tenure in Cleveland and the Cavaliers never got a shot at revenge with the Magic, instead flaming out spectacularly against the Boston Celtics in the 2nd round. That was the painful end of the great LeBron James era in Cleveland.
A lot will probably be written in the future about LeBron James. I expect a time will come when books will be written explaining more about The Decision, and LeBron’s meltdown against the Celtics, and other less than scrupulous rumors flying around town. Nothing that scandalous has been written now, but still, Shaquille O’Neal has written a book that gives us our first real look behind the curtain in Cleveland.
In the forthcoming book titled “Shaq Uncut: My Story”, the Big Diesel/Aristotle/WhateverHe’sGoingByNow comes clean on a lot of hot button topics including his beef with Kobe Bryant and his time with LeBron in Cleveland.
HoopsWorld.com has a preview of the book and posted some excerpts that are sure to raise book sales in certain circles. First, he talks about the special treatment LeBron received in Cleveland:
LeBron was a huge star. He was as big as I was in 2000 in L.A. when I was dominating the league. … Our coach, Mike Brown, was a nice guy, but he had to live on edge because nobody was supposed to be confrontational with LeBron. Nobody wanted him to leave Cleveland, so he was allowed to do whatever he wanted to do.
I remember one day in a film session LeBron didn’t get back on defense after a missed shot. Mike Brown didn’t say anything about it. He went to the next clip and it was Mo Williams not getting back and Mike was saying, “Yo, Mo, we can’t have that. You’ve got to hustle a little more.” So Delonte West is sitting there and he’s seen enough and he stands up and says, “Hold up, now. You can’t be pussyfooting around like that. Everyone has to be accountable for what they do, not just some us.” Mike Brown said, “I know, Delonte. I know.” Mike knew Delonte was right. …
I’m not sure if Kobe is going to listen to Mike Brown. LeBron never really did. Here’s what we do know: Kobe will definitely be in charge.
It’s hard to say if that passage is meant as a slight more to Mike Brown or LeBron James, but it sure seems like a shot at Coach Brown. Shaq also had something to say about LeBron’s late game playoff performances, in particular the infamous “Game 5” incident:
There’s no question in Game 5 LeBron was kind of out of it. … I always believed he could turn it on at any moment, but for some reason he didn’t. Not against the Celtics in 2010 and not against the Mavericks in 2011. It was weird. It’s one thing to be a passer, but you are supposed to be the One. I’m watching him play against Dallas, and they’re swinging the ball and they get him a perfect open look – and he’s kicking it to Mario Chalmers. Makes no sense. I told people, “It’s like Michael Jordan told me. Before you succeed, you must first fail.”
None of this exactly ground breaking stuff, and for those who were hoping for a genuine blockbuster whistle blowing book about all of LeBron’s problems in Cleveland, well, this book isn’t that.
However, for Cavalier fans, this book is enough to make the stomach turn a little bit. It sheds just a little light on just how carefully LeBron was handled in Cleveland. And that’s no shot at Cleveland. The Cavaliers did what they had to do keep LeBron happy in a place it’s clear now he never really wanted to be. It’s not like treating LeBron any less would have increased the chances of him re-signing with the Cavaliers. But still, it’s sad and unfortunate to have to read about the behind the scenes circus that was really happening.
Maybe Cleveland really was just too small to contain LeBron. Perhaps that franchise is not equipped to handle a star of that magnitude and the trappings that come with it. But still, in a city that boasts Jim Brown and Bob Feller as points of pride, as all time great players who played their entire careers in Cleveland, it’s just a shame that the Cavaliers now seem so ill prepared for that kind of stardom.
Or maybe it’s just LeBron James. Perhaps the player is just a special, unique brand of prima donna. Whatever the case, the whole period probably serves as a valuable lesson for the franchise on what to do and what not to do. Should the Cavaliers be so fortunate as to see Kyrie Irving blossom into a star, or should some other unknown future player be the next great to don the wine and gold, the Cavaliers will have a blueprint for how these things can go south. Shaq’s book provides just the smallest glimpse into that wormhole.