Monday, June 06, 2005

Respect Earned & Respect Given

I’m not writing about the Heat-Pistons Eastern Conference Finals or Sean Taylor getting arrested. To me that stuff comes in a distant second place to what Shaquille O’Neal did for the family of the late George Mikan. Mikan passed away last Wednesday in Arizona from a long battle with diabetes and kidney ailments. He was 80 years old and more than forty-five years older than O’Neal.

Shaq did something for people that he probably wouldn’t know if he bumped into them on the street. When he found out that George Mikan’s family was having some trouble paying for the Hall of Famer’s funeral Shaq did what Shaq does best…he stepped up his game.

The NBA’s most dominant force ever is paying for the NBA’s first dominant force, the Minneapolis Lakers center in the late 40s & 50s, to be laid to rest the right way. Shaq told reporters that he enjoyed meeting and speaking to Mikan and felt connected to him more than through their tenures guiding the Lakers to championships.

Mikan was the unstoppable force who drove the Lakers to four NBA titles in five seasons after winning the BAA title in 1949. Five championships in six seasons – MJ & Scottie, Magic & Kareem, and Larry & Company didn’t even pull that feat off.

The 6’10” center and DePaul University graduate led the Blue Demons to the 1945 NIT title at a time when that tournament was the ‘big one’ and was on the 1943 team that made the Final Four. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1959 and was voted as one of the Century’s 50 Greatest Players in 1999. He made the hook shot popular and made blocking shots an effective defensive play. Mikan’s superior play caused the widening of lanes and prevention of goal tending.

Mikan played until injuries led him to retire during the 1955-56 season. He later impacted basketball as commissioner of the ABA.

You see, these types of things don’t happen often in today’s society. The professional athletes of yester year weren’t paid a fraction of what the guys today make and it makes me happy to see that one of the guys who’s been granted such incredible financial wealth is paying his respects to a man who helped paved the way.

Love him or hate him Shaquille O’Neal did something wonderful for people that deserved it. I respect him for his ability as a basketball player and truly admire him as a man.


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