Ironies abound in Shaq vs. Yao showdown
Imagine you’re a savvy hoops fan from Mars seeing your first NBA game Sunday night. You notice the two big centers, and you’ve been told that one guy is an aging superstar with four championship rings while the other is a promising young guy from a country where basketball is relatively new. But you’re not told which is which.
By the end of the night you’d likely think that Yao is the grizzled superstar and Shaq the still-learning young pup. Shaq would seem younger because he’s by far the more dynamic and explosively quick of the two. Yao would appear to be much older, given his relative slowness, but also more accomplished by virtue of his skill and artistry. You just might blurt out:
“Man, that tall, aging cat has got all the shots — and beautiful strokes for each of them. But that young, massive dude shows me nothing. He’s got no offensive game if the refs don’t let him bull his way to the hoop — which he’d never get away with on Mars. He’s got a mediocre jumphook and no jumpshot. And unlike the tall cat, he apparently can’t finish with his left hand.
“He’s just a raw athlete — but what an athlete! He covers more ground and his quicker off his feet and to the ball than the aging tall guy. Very impressive reflexes for a 12-boulder. [In the Martian metric system, one boulder equals 30 pounds.] But what a klutz at the stripe! That tall cat is automatic; he LOOKS like a shooter. This wide dude looks like he’s never seen a basketball in his life. It’s pretty obvious he’s from a place where b-ball is fairly new and the coaches don’t have a clue. Man, watching him try to shoot, you have to wonder if he’s ever been coached a day in his life.”
The good news for Shaq is that, even at 34 and showing the effects of a long NBA career, he has ample room to improve on his skills to offset what he's gradually losing in athleticism. The bad news is that he's stuck with the Miami coaching staff.