Shaqzilla dethroned.
January 2, 2003 5:05 PM   Subscribe

Shaqzilla dethroned. Shaquille O'Neal, who warned Chinese citizen & #1 draft pick Yao Ming to "Look Out, Shaqzilla is coming" (presumably unaware that Tokyo is not part of China), has been dethroned; currently in fan balloting, he is running a distant second to the rookie for starting center in the All Star game. Even though his numbers are effectively double those of Yao's, even though he's a three time NBA Finals MVP.
posted by jonson (27 comments total)
Shaq's been known to lament "People never root for Goliath", but on the contrary, ESPN columnists spent last week falling all over themselves trying to acclaim the greatness of Yao. Here & here.

Perhaps, people just never root for Shaq, who, talented as he is, has never been able to win over the average fan. From the missed free throws, to the ridiculous rapping/acting "career", to the inaudible postgame interview mumbling, he just doesn't exude the charisma of the former dominant players such as Jordan or Magic.
posted by jonson at 5:10 PM on January 2, 2003

True. You do get the feeling that Shaq has always been about Shaq first and his team second. I still remember how he left Orlando for brighter pastures the first chance he got, and his passion for opulence and constant I'm-better-than-youness is kind of grating. (At least pretend to be humble, man, that's how we like our heroes; didn't you get that memo?)

Still, he is a hell of a player, and back-that-truck-up style aside, no one comes close to him talentwise.

All that said? I wanna see Yao too. The highlight films on the news are phenomenal. What's not to want to see?

The other question is: why are there eight other people getting more votes than Shaq as well? Are people getting tired of him? (I admit I am, a little.)
posted by chicobangs at 5:19 PM on January 2, 2003

I respected Magic and Jordan for their athletic abilities, and because they could do things with a basketball that I couldn't.

My problem with Shaquille O'Neal is that he has size, but not talent, regardless of what anyone else thinks (sorry, chicobangs). Anyone who's that much larger and stronger than his opponent (and is pretty much given free rein by the officials to bowl said opponent over pretty much at will) is going to put up large numbers. That doesn't make him a ballplayer, it makes him a bully. A very big, high-paid bully, but a bully nonetheless. I have no doubt that if I were a freak of genetics like Shaquille O'Neal I could do exactly what he does. That's the difference between him and players like Magic and Jordan.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:24 PM on January 2, 2003

The other question is: why are there eight other people getting more votes than Shaq as well? Are people getting tired of him? (I admit I am, a little.)

Because all-star (all-pro is football) voting isn't about who the best players are anymore (ever since the fan was given a say in the matter. It's a popularity contest... which players have better marketing managers.
posted by Witty at 5:32 PM on January 2, 2003

Witty, I agree to an extent, but that's not 100% of it. For example, that explains why Vince Carter, who has been a bust the last two seasons, is in the top three in votes. But you can't say that a rookie like Yao Ming has better, slicker marketing manager than Shaquille O'Neal?
posted by jonson at 5:42 PM on January 2, 2003

No, you're right... I didn't mean to suggest that. Some players get voted in because they are truly one of the best players in the league. However, I think that happens to be a coincidence moreso than the rule. A really good player is popular for being such. His popularity can carry him through several all-star games long after his effectiveness has waned.

Other players get in because they have great marketing people in their corner. Yao may not be one of those guys. BUT HE IS a 7+ foot Chinese guy playing some decent basketball right now... and it's no surprise that he's commanding a lot of attention right now. He's a freak.

Shaq is old news... plain and simple (as well as the other points of criticism other people have made). Yao is what's hot right now. If it were just up to the writer's and coaches, like it used to be, you'd see Shaq as the #1 center in the voting.
But he IS getting more attention (some of it deservedly) right now because of his
posted by Witty at 5:59 PM on January 2, 2003

godzilla is way faster than shaq
posted by matteo at 5:59 PM on January 2, 2003

disregard my last line of babble please
posted by Witty at 6:00 PM on January 2, 2003

also, godzilla has a better free throw percentage
posted by matteo at 6:01 PM on January 2, 2003

but what do I know, I'm a Celtics fan
posted by matteo at 6:03 PM on January 2, 2003

mr_crash elucidated the reason why a lot of people don't like Shaq - it's not his personality, but his playing style. If I had a nickel every time someone over 40 told me that Shaq should be called for a foul, I'd have a million dollars.

The difference is that Shaq knows how to use his body without committing a foul. That's something that we couldn't, no matter our size, do. He is a master of body control and positioning among people his size.
posted by Kevs at 6:03 PM on January 2, 2003

(The other reason might be that Shaq missed half of the season, and was out of the balloters eyes until only recently)
posted by Kevs at 6:05 PM on January 2, 2003

Could it be possible that Shaq is getting fewer votes because he has had very little impact this season? His team was struggling before he joined them and they continued to struggle after he joined them. Just compare Houston's 17-13 with LAL's 13-19. Kobe still gets the votes because the voters are seeing him as a future star and he was there from day 1. Maybe there is a marketing angle there. But, the main point is that Yao is playing better and means more to his team. This reminds me of the Ichiro-mania we had in Seattle a few years back.
posted by SandeepKrishnamurthy at 6:17 PM on January 2, 2003

Let's also not forget that Yao has the largest country in the world backing him up. I'm not sure of the number of Chinese citizens with access to the internet, but those that have it are undoubtedly urged to vote for him as a show of nationalism.
posted by JaxJaggywires at 6:24 PM on January 2, 2003

People know Shaq. That's not the problem. Missing the first three weeks of the season ain't gonna stop people from knowing him.

But true, his team does suck, and the difference between the pre-Shaq comeback Lakers and the post-same isn't as much as Lakers fans were hoping. (Kobe's near or at the top of the balloting because he's taking 60 shots a night and puts a brave face on losing for the cameras).

Sure, Shaq's injury counts for some of it too. He looks like he's not trying sometimes, his sense of entitlement on and off the court rubs people the wrong way, and he's been in every commercial and highlight show for the better part of a decade, so we've seen plenty of him.

Also, Yao Ming is exotic! and new! and has every netizen in China voting early and often for him! And as far as any of us can tell, he's really damned good (and getting better every week) at the game of basketball.

Of course the fans dig him. If it's a popularity contest, I want these two butting heads for the whole all-star game, and that looks like it just might happen.
posted by chicobangs at 6:34 PM on January 2, 2003

Let's also not forget that Yao has the largest country in the world backing him up.

and has every netizen in China voting early and often for him!

The jury is out on whether Chinese citizens can even get to the NBA site through their restrictive national firewall.
posted by machaus at 6:46 PM on January 2, 2003

Shaq is boring to watch, his "back-that-truck-up" style ought to be called an offensive foul, and I think the average fan is beginning to realize this. Besides that, teams are starting to learn that they can limit his (and by extension, the Lakers') effectiveness with a tight, pass-smothering zone.

Yao, on the other hand, runs the floor, passes well, and shoots jump shots (far more often than Shaq does anyway.) I submit that not only is Yao more fun to watch, he is the better player for his versatility.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 7:07 PM on January 2, 2003

Shaq's play is ugly. He does have some decent skills, but too often he is using his weight to repeatedly knock his defender off the block and just plow his way to the basket.

I don't particularly care if it's legal or not. (I think it isn't)

Shaq's game is not pretty. It is not entertaining to watch. He is not an exceptional passer. He is not a good ball-handler and he seldom hits a jumper or executes any play where he doesn't start in the low post.

It's boring and it's ugly. The NBA should declare his style illegal for that reason only.
posted by hipnerd at 7:21 PM on January 2, 2003

Something else to consider about Yao Ming. He's playing on a team with three shoot first and pass second ball hogs, Steve Francis, Cuttino Mobley, and Glen Rice. If the Rockets actually ran more plays through Yao Ming, his numbers would be even more frightening.
posted by Beholder at 8:32 PM on January 2, 2003

The NBA is hugely popular in China. I remember going to a Chinese kid's apartment in Japan which was completely coated in New York Knicks memorabilia and such, even though he had never been to America. He said that he watched Knicks games on TV all of the time in China. Presumably, at least a few (hundred thousand) enterprising Chinese citizens have figured out a way to vote for Yao, even if is blocked by firewall. Maybe you can email your vote?
posted by ejoey at 10:32 PM on January 2, 2003

This reminds me of the MLB, where Ichiro was #1 in balloting not just because he's a great player, but because he has the support of an entire nation voting for him. For more anecdotal evidence on the Japanese-voting bias, keep in mind that Shinjo, while less than a spectacular player, was #4 in voting for the outfield last year.

Firewall or no, I think this is a case of China stuffing the ballots. And since they generally have less known players to vote for, guess what? The one player they do know (and share their nationality with) gets the vote.
posted by dogmatic at 11:54 PM on January 2, 2003

Shaq is an asshole. Everyone knows it. But as long as he was a key game winner, most fans didn't care.

This season he's not making as much of a difference, and the voting shows it. That about sums it up.
posted by Cerebus at 6:19 AM on January 3, 2003

Shaq is the most dominant basketball player in the world. Yao Ming is the most popular basketball player in China. For the first time, NBA All-Star balloting is available in Mandarin Chinese. Chinese people use the internet. Shaq won't start in the All-Star game.

I've always thought it was ridiculous that the NBA let's fans vote for the starters because some guys like Shawn Kemp, and maybe MJ this year, have made All-Star teams on fan votes in years where coaches wouldn't have picked them. I think coaches should pick the All-Stars, making it a true honor, and then fans could pick the starters out of that group.
posted by uftheory at 6:44 AM on January 3, 2003

"All-Star" in basketball doesn't necessarily reflect ability as it reflects ability and popularity.

Think of it this way... Britney Spears is an all-star in the music industry, but I think a lot of people, when pressed to identify the talent, would be hard pressed.
posted by benjh at 7:06 AM on January 3, 2003

re their stats, "Even though his (Shaq's) numbers are effectively double those of Yao's..."
Stats are funny that way-- Yao leads in off. rebounds, blocks (and to be fair, TOs) per minute. Also, FT %, obviously. Fans may not see him playing as much as Shaq, but minute per minute, they are more balanced competitors than led to believe.
posted by G_Ask at 8:55 AM on January 3, 2003

"That Yao...he's so hot right now!!"
posted by bullitt 5 at 11:17 AM on January 3, 2003

Yao's more likeable than Shaq, who talks so much sh*t you're convinced there's a U-turn in his lower intestine.

Also, the "latest new thing" and "helps his team win" factors, already elucidated, favor Yao.

Word has it someone in Oakland held a monkey's paw and said "I want the Warriors to be right up there with the Lakers in the standings."
posted by kurumi at 1:31 PM on January 3, 2003

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