Living Large

Forget the promise of a championship for a second. We’ll get to that.

Just look at that mug. What’s not to love?

He’s 7-foot-1 and 325 pounds of mischief. Even at 37, with flecks of gray in his beard, Shaq’s just an oversized 10-year-old. What else could explain his Shaq vs. reality show?

Seeing him in the pink flowered swim cap was worth every minute of his flailing in the pool against Michael Phelps. This wasn’t the graceful Jerry Rice on Dancing with the Stars; it was what Jerry Seinfeld might look like on Battle of the Network Stars.

In fact, the only thing bigger than Shaq’s size 23 high-tops is his personality, making him an easy pick to head up this year’s group of Most Interesting People. (I love how our photographer, Chris Walters, had to stand on the second step of his ladder to get a head-on shot of The Big Aristotle for our cover.)

Yeah, Shaq’s got enough nicknames to fill an arena. And he was sly enough to let the fans have a hand in picking his Witness Protection moniker, even if it doesn’t make his all-time best. (We’re partial to Shaqtus.)

Obviously, the big guy has a soft heart, too. After hearing the terrible story of how 5-year-old Shaniya Davis was kidnapped and killed in North Carolina, Shaq paid for her funeral. And his holiday persona, Shaq-A-Claus, helps raise money for Toys for Tots.

And he knows how to play to a crowd. His Twitter feed, which has 2.6 million followers, might just be the best tour guide in town.

In “random acts of shaqness,” as he calls them, Shaq dropped an autographed Sports Illustrated at the West Side Market and directed followers to signed LeBron sneakers and a bobblehead next to an exit sign on I-480.

He even updated worried fans about his mid-December eye injury with a quirky “Eye see you all” message and a picture of a somewhat reddened, but not too worse for wear, left eye.

Yes, Shaq was brought here for one thing: to win a championship. That’s yet another reason Cleveland deserves one this year — it’d be great to have Shaq around just a little longer.
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