Shaquille O'Neal has been morphing — and not so gradually — into a caricature whose main contribution to Turner Sports' studio show is playing the role of a perpetually aggrieved uncle who insists things were better in the old days of the NBA despite not paying very close attention to what's actually happening in the NBA today. Which makes for a bizarre experience because he's handsomely compensated to watch the league and comment on its twists and turns.
So far this year he's shown the inability to identify players who are more than five years into their playing careers and to antagonize those who he can identify, all of this adding up to a very real concern that Inside the NBA could have a Shaq-sized problem.
Last night, after the Denver Nuggets destroyed the Milwaukee Bucks in the form of a 31-point road victory, O'Neal revealed that evolutions in defensive strategy are another thing he's failed to keep tabs on.
After Candace Parker alluded to the proliferation of switching on high pick-and-rolls, O'Neal wondered whatever happened to "manning up" or pre-rotating. Parker and Dwyane Wade helpfully explained that in the current game, having four or five shooters on the floor at one time means teams are able to move the ball faster than the defense is able to move feet and therefore are able to create open shots.
Some back-and-forth ensued before O'Neal reminded everyone, as he's wont to do when it's germane or otherwise, that he won championships.
There's certainly nothing wrong with some on-screen disagreement. It's not as though Parker is infallible and shouldn't be questioned. But Shaq so often feels unprepared to do anything other than to be Shaq. Which is a little bizarre because, surely, there are millions of viewers who share the general consensus of The Big Lead that he's shortchanging them by refusing to do the requisite research or preparation.
Of course, the overwhelming majority of viewers probably don't care or don't notice. The program is consistently lavished with great ratings and industry plaudits, so the ends clearly justify the means. We're not piling on or picking at him or anything from a place other than confusion. Because it remains weird that, on the marquee NBA basketball show, one of the main characters consistently reveals that he's less locked-in than Jim on a couch in Asheville or Mary in Muskegon.