I have been to one NBA game in my life, and what a game it was. My brother’s company was doing one of those bus trips to a New Jersey Nets game. The Nets weren’t very good and they were playing the Orlando Magic, another team mired in mediocrity. But the price was good, I hadn’t been to an NBA game before, and I had heard the Magic had this rookie from LSU named O’Neal who was a specimen to see. So we sat there in the nosebleed seats, about three rows in front of the horn, to watch a game.
Yes, I saw Shaquille O’Neal play live in his rookie season, and that’s only part of the story. During the game there was quite a delay as the equipment crew for the Nets had to get a new basket because Shaq had broken the one at the far end of the floor. He didn’t shatter the backboard. He collapsed the entire mechanism that holds up the basket. Something I have never seen before, and never will since. Rumor has it, the next year the NBA changed the specs for baskets – a Shaq rule.
I’m not much of a fan of the NBA which is not hard to tell since I told you that I have attended only one game in my life, but I have been a Shaq fan since that night. I have even used stories about him to illustrate a couple of sermons. During one sermon I pulled out a life-sized cardboard cutout of him in his Magic uniform (I wish I still had that thing) that I used to illustrate how we tend to make our heroes one-dimensional, even our biblical ones. I left that cutout in my office at the church where I served as youth pastor. I used to joke it was my security system. Even in cardboard he was pretty impressive. Another time I talked about that dunk in particular, about how no matter how impressive it was, it was just another two points. I think that was one of those church-as-the-body-of-Christ sermons.
On Wednesday Shaq retired from basketball. His knees won’t do it anymore. After a long career of impressive play and off-court entertainment, it is time to call it quits. I know I will miss the highlights and the soundbites, although I think there will be many more of those to come. Oh, and I will miss the sermon illustrations.