CLEVELAND — One is the King, a reigning MVP who at age 24 needs only a championship to complete his résumé. The other is a larger-than-life personality who may be past the prime of his career but remains an undeniable force and hungers for a fifth NBA title.
LeBron and Shaq. Teammates.
The Cleveland Cavaliers executed a blockbuster trade Thursday to unite the superstars, acquiring Shaquille O'Neal from the Phoenix Suns in hopes he can help LeBron James deliver this seemingly sports-cursed city its first major championship in 45 years.
The deal creates a tandem that instantly rivals any in sports today and calls to mind some of the great duos in NBA history: Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bob Cousy and Bill Russell, Shaq and Kobe Bryant.
More important, if Cleveland's gamble works and the 37-year-old O'Neal delivers a title, it could keep James around. James is an Akron native, knows Cleveland's pained sports history and has always maintained he wants to stay in his home state, but there is no guarantee he will sign an extension with the Cavs.
But that's for another day.
"Shaq is an incredible ballplayer and a four-time champion," James said. "I have a lot of respect for him and his game."
The Cavs sent center Ben Wallace and swingman Sasha Pavlovic to the Suns, along with a second-round pick in the 2010 draft and $500,000 in cash, for O'Neal, the 7-foot-1 center who won three straight titles from 2000 to 2002 with Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.
The teams first talked about a deal in February but couldn't work out an agreement before the deadline, a missed opportunity that cost the Cavaliers in this year's playoffs.
For sheer celebrity value, the O'Neal-James tandem is as captivating as any on the sports landscape. And if it works, and lasts, the pairing may one day belong in the same company as some of the all-time combinations: Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, Joe Montana and Jerry Rice.
A larger than life Cavs duo
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