Today is Day 32 of the Omer. Netzach sheb’hod. Humility that leads to winning.
Sometimes you have to look for the specific moment in a player’s career to really understand a combination of sefirot. Shaquille O’Neal is the definition of larger than life. At 7’1”, 325 lbs, Shaq was too big for even one nickname. The Big Aristotle destroyed baskets, dunked over everybody, and clowned for the cameras whenever possible.
The 15x All-Star and League MVP was an obvious Hall of Famer, but he’s not an obvious choice for the week of hod (humility). At the height of his powers, there was no reason for Shaq to be humble. He was the offense. He led the league in FG% for 10 years. In his MVP season he averaged 29.7 points, 13.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 3.0 blocks/game.
And Shaq only got better in the playoffs. From 1999-2002, he led the Lakers to three straight titles and was the Finals MVP each time. During the first two title runs, he averaged over 30 points, 15 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks/game.
But there is only one real Superman. And even the best, lose a step. When the Lakers failed to reach the NBA finals in 2003 and then lost to the Pistons in 2004, the friction between Kobe Bryant and Shaq reached a boiling point. It was clear that one of them had to go and the Lakers chose Kobe.
Shaq was traded to Miami at the age of 32 and arrived humble and hungry. Unwilling or unable to share the ball and spotlight with Kobe in LA, Shaq finally realized the lesson of Day 32, netzach sheb’hod, that humility can lead to winning too. When you’re no longer an unstoppable force, you need help.
In Miami, Shaq found that help in Dwayne Wade. Finally, willing to take a secondary role, Shaq learned that hod can manifest as netzach (victory) and it resulted in his 4th NBA championship.
Featured image from Keith Allison.
p.s. Orlando Shaq remains my favorite version of Shaq.