Monday, September 12, 2016

Mondays With Murray: They were thinking big when they paid out big

Shaq presents Linday Murray Hofmans with
a Lakers top at center court on Feb. 28, 1999,
at the Great Western Forum.
Shaquille O’Neal — aka Shaq — was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame last weekend.
In 1996, Jim Murray had some advice for Shaq. Newly acquired by the Los Angeles Lakers, much was expected from the big man, and Jim Murray didn’t hold anything back about what was expected. I think he got the message.
— Linda Murray Hofmans

They Were Thinking Big When They Paid Out Big

All right, Miss Kelly B., suppose we compose a letter to Mr. O'Neal? You know, the movie actor, part-time basketball player? No, no, not Ryan! Shaquille. Ready? 
"Dear Shaq, 
"You know, I never thought I'd agree with Dennis Rodman on anything. But a quote from him in a column by my colleague Mike Downey caught my eye the other day because it crystallized something I've been thinking for a long time. 
"It's this: Shaq, do you quite comprehend the responsibility that lies before you? I mean, you got all 
this money and all. Pretty soon, somebody's going to present the order to you. 
"What Rodman said was 'No way I'd ever pay a man $120 million if he's not the whole package.' 
"You know what I'm saying here, Shaq? You know what Rodman is saying? 
"You got to get with it, Shaq. Frankly, a 20-9 record ain't gonna cut it. Face it. They lay 120 mil on you, they expect you to change water into wine. Athletically speaking, that is. 
"They didn't bring you out here to win-a-few, lose-a-few. Shore up the defense. Kill the penalties. Come off the bench when a starter gets in foul trouble. They got Byron Scott for that. Kurt Rambis, you ain't. They didn't bring you up here to set picks. For $7 million a year, Elden Campbell does that. Sometimes. 
"No, Shaq, your job is to sweep the boards, sweep the league, jam the championship through the hoop. Your job is to be the next Michael Jordan. Or, at least, the next Hakeem Olajuwon. We're not talking do-your-best here. We're talking the whole ball of wax. Success, not effort. 
"Al Davis would know what we mean. 'Just win, baby!' 
"Shaq, you look up in the rafters at the Forum. See all the championship banners there? See all those retired jerseys? Wilt. Jerry. Elg. Kareem. Magic. That's what's required. I mean, you're looking at history there. We want a No. 34 up there. And a championship banner to go along with it. 
"It's just the way the world works nowadays, Shaq. It's a bottom-line world. Don't forget in 1979 Jerry Buss bought the entire Lakers — and the Kings and the Forum and about half of Kern County — for $67.5 million. Last year he forked over $120 million just for you. No ranch properties, no hockey team, just little old you. 
"You don't want excuses when you push that amount of money on the table. You're betting on the come. Hey, Seward bought Alaska for $7 million. And they called that 'Seward's Folly.' 
"You don't want to be known as 'Buss' Folly,' now, Shaq, do you? I should say not! 
"You have to study the failures around you. For instance, Patrick Ewing never brought the flag to New York. Karl Malone can't seem to get the hang of it in Salt Lake. David Robinson ends up a buck short. 
"On the other hand, 120 mil, Shaq! Whatever it takes, Babe! I mean, look at Michael Jordan. He used to throw in these superlative performances. Averaged more than 37 points a night. Regularly threw in 61, 59, 53 in games. Used to refer to his teammates as 'my supporting cast.' But, one day, he looked around and noticed something peculiar. He wasn't winning any championships. 
"He got the point. He went to work. He started to pass the ball around. Bring the team, the supporting cast, into the game. Presto! Championships! 
"Well, I think you see what I'm driving at, Shaq. The other night, your team — and it is your team — blew a 21-point lead. Even though it was to the Michael Jordan Bulls, that's a no-no, Shaq. You don't let that happen if you're signed for $120 mil. 
"You see, Shaq, when you get a big raise, it calls for big effort. I remember once I got raised from $38.50 a week to $50 and I tried to think of ways to improve. I stopped taking half-hour coffee breaks over at Gallagher's and even volunteered to do the weather story some days. That's what you have to do when management shows that confidence in you, Shaq. You've got to raise your level of commitment. 
"Just trying to help, Shaq. Call me when you beat the Bulls in Game 7 or so of the finals. Calls for a celebration. And a raise. Maybe they can give you an island in the South Pacific. New Zealand. Or an island in the Mediterranean. Rhodes. Make 'em think you were a steal at only 120 mil." 

Reprinted with permission by the Los Angeles Times.

Jim Murray Memorial Foundation, P.O. Box 60753, Pasadena, CA 91116

What is the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation? 

  The Jim Murray Memorial Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, established in 1999 to perpetuate the Jim Murray legacy, and his love for and dedication to his extraordinary career in journalism. Since 1999, JMMF has granted 104 $5,000 scholarships to outstanding journalism students. Success of the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation's efforts depends heavily on the contributions from generous individuals, organizations, corporations, and volunteers who align themselves with the mission and values of the JMMF.

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