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Shaquille O’Neal could play in Mexico for one or two games

Eric Freeman
Ball Don't Lie

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Shaquille O'Neal throws the tip at a wheelchair basketball game in Mexico (Jesse Grant/ WireImage).

Since retiring after the 2010-11 season, Shaquille O'Neal has not diminished his presence in popular culture one bit. In addition to serving as an often frustrating analyst for TNT's "Inside the NBA," Shaq has developed a comedy series for TruTV, won a role in the hotly anticipated (by 12-year-olds) sequel "Grown Ups 2" and continued to be a popular spokesman for products such as Buick and Dove. Clearly, Shaq will not leave our TV sets anytime soon.

However, pretty much no one expected him to get back on the basketball court in a context lacking network-approved celebrities and half-baked pranks at Charles Barkley's expense. According to one report, though, Shaq could play in a real-life game once again. Except it would be in Mexico, not the NBA. From Xavier Cabello for ESPNDeportes.com, as translated from the original Spanish by me (via PBT):

Sergio Ganem, President of Fuerza Regia, a team of the Liga Nacional be Baloncesto Profesional de México (LNBP), confirmed that they are negotiating with Shaquille O'Neal to play one or two games in the 2012-13 season with the team in October. The director indicated that they have talked on the telephone with the ex-player with the goal of convincing him to to return to activity. [...]

The invitation was made this past August when the ex-NBA player visited Monterrey to do social work with a community center for youths in wheelchairs.

It should be noted that this does not mean that Shaq has accepted the offer. On top of that, Fuerza Regia has a reputation as a team that likes to court publicity — it briefly employed Dennis Rodman in 2003 under a similar arrangement and signed the 7-9 Chinese player Sung Ming Ming. Ganem is something akin to the Mexican Bill Veeck, bringing in some players for publicity in the hopes of boosting ticket sales (though it should be noted that Veeck was also a legitimate innovator responsible for many important breakthroughs in Major League Baseball).

I don't know if Shaq will take this offer. But while most future Hall of Famers would seem totally out of place in such a setting, Shaq could actually be a good fit. On-court greatness aside, Shaq is at his best as a self-promoter. Over time, that's made him a huge celebrity, but not necessarily someone who's aged gracefully, like his rough contemporary Tim Duncan. He's been very successful, and is one of a handful of players from his era who's still relevant. On the other hand, it is not surprising that he could play one or two games in Mexico. It's up to each of us to decide if the negatives outweigh the positives.

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