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MAY 2008



MAY 2009

Shaquille O’Neal
MAY 2008

the BIg Shaq-tuS In full BlOOM
Out Of the heat. IntO the Sun. hOw Steve Kerr and the SunS Pulled Off the Mega trade tO BrIng Shaq tO the valley. and waIt untIl yOu hear what Shaq MIght dO when he’S dOne PlayIng.
By ZacK SIMOn PhOtO By Barry




MAY 2009

Shaquille O’Neal
MAY 2008


t was a trade that went down between an eastern Conference power team that had become absolutely brutal after recently winning an nba Championship, and a flashy and exciting team from the west that was desperately trying to get to the promised land to give its loyal fan base the ultimate bragging rights they had been craving for years. and steve Kerr was right in the middle of it. In fact, let’s let the suns’ quick-witted, dynamic and courageous GM describe that trade that made a big impact in his life in his own words. “no question,” steve reminisced to POST about the blockbuster. “I mean, seriously, who could ever forget the epic steve Kerr for Chuck Person trade? [It happened in 1998. steve was traded from the bulls to the spurs.] That was a deal that shifted the balance of power in the nba and altered the course of basketball history.” oh, you thought we were talking about the earth-axis-altering deal steve put together this February, when he traded shawn Marion to the heat for the self-proclaimed “big shaq-tus”? oh, yeah, well, that was big too. but to have the guts to bring one of the planet’s biggest superstars to the Valley, it doesn’t hurt to add a dose of some self-deprecating humor to go along with the confidence of pulling it off. and that’s one thing Kerr has brought to his job as the top man in the front office. and talk about making a huge splash, just months into a new, extremely high-profile job. steve instigated the deal, massaged it, and basically made it happen, but he certainly had to take the pulse of all the key people on the team before dialing the digits to Pat riley’s office. “This deal would not have been made without consensus among our management team and coaching staff. I discussed the deal with robert sarver, Mike d’antoni, Vinny del negro and david Griffin extensively before making a decision. after several days of discussion, we concluded that the deal made sense for us, so we pulled the trigger.” and just like that, when it became official, you could feel the jolt of energy and excitement throughout the Valley when we knew shaq was coming to Phoenix. The reason is because he’s one of the few larger-than-life personalities that seems to create his own energy field wherever he goes. and after having every reason to believe he’d end his career in south Florida, “It was never clear to me that I was going to be traded, matter of fact I was told I’d never be traded, that I would retire in Miami,” shaq said, after the heat started circling the drain with their wretched play, his season was saved, and career rejuvenated, by the call from Kerr. “I’m sort of a specialist,” shaq described himself to POST. “I’m used to moving every four years. I’ve always liked Phoenix as a city, and particularly the Camelback area. I pretty much knew my way around.” but it took the diligence of Kerr to finally make the trade happen. “The deal basically consumed me — and everyone in basketball ops — for an entire week. we examined every angle, analyzed every nuance and ran every number financially. I don’t think any of us thought about anything else during the entire process. I never thought the deal would fall apart, because I knew it made too much sense for both sides. The only hurdle was getting past the idea of breaking


up what was already a very successful team to try to create a better one. The easy thing to do would have been to stand pat, but we decided to go for it and make the deal.” Kerr and crew made a complicated deal, in modern-day nba when you are dealing with mega salaries and fragile egos, look easy. The hard part was having to tell shawn Marion he was going from a contender to a very bad team. “Yes, I spoke with shawn,” Kerr said. “It’s my job to call any player when he has been traded. having been traded five times myself in my playing career, I know how traumatic an experience it is. being torn away from a city, from your teammates, from your friends — it’s tough. shawn took it very professionally, but it was not an easy call to make.” oh, and speaking of calls. There were scores of them to talk radio shows. For weeks, callers burned up the lines to the shows of Gambo and ash, bickley and MJ, wolfley and Franz, rock and Manuch, dave burns, bob Kemp and Jeff dean. everyone had an opinion of whether the trade was a good idea. It turned out to be a great move, on and off the court for the suns, and after Kerr finished it, he attempted to avoid the outside opinions. “I tried not to read the papers or listen to the talk shows, but inevitably I heard plenty of criticism. I knew it would come. It sounds good to say that I didn’t care what people thought, but we all care what people think. still, part of this job is dealing with criticism, and I understand that. My decision-making certainly won’t be swayed by public opinion, I know that. I’m always going to do what’s best for the team.” Mission accomplished. The big shaqtus will be blooming for the next two springtimes in the Valley as well. “I have a three-year commitment right now; after that, if I get offered another deal, I’ll stay; if not, I’ll probably be looking to do other things,” shaq told POST. Like what, you may be wondering? how about this — giving the world’s toughest sheriff a run for his money. “I will be involved with the tempe Police department. You never know, I might run for sheriff in Maricopa County.” If he does, he’ll do it with flair, originality, pizzazz, and be incredibly entertaining every step of the way. Let’s hope shaq wins a couple titles with the suns and decides to retire here – Shaq On lIfe like everyone else that moves here. and for the after the SunS guy who showed the guts to make the deal to make all this possible? well, remember that trade we mentioned in the beginning of the story that steve was involved in? It turned out he ended up winning two more nba titles when he played for the spurs. Kerr has a total of five rings as a player, and he’d love to add a few as a GM. and if he has to pull off another blockbuster along the way, well, he’s certainly showed he’s got the guts to do it. remember, pressure is nothing new to steve Kerr. he won a game in the nba Finals with a clutch, 14-foot jumper, at the buzzer on a pass from Michael Jordan. but the pressure associated with that paled compared to what it took to bring shaq to the Valley. “honestly, the trade was more nerve-wracking than the jumper in the Finals. when you’re playing, you don’t have time to think — you just react. when you’re making a trade, all you have is time to think.” and suns fans think they are pretty thankful that the trade was made.

“I wIll Be InvOlved wIth the teMPe POlIce dePartMent. yOu never KnOw, I MIght run fOr SherIff In MarIcOPa cOunty.”


MAY 2009

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