Should Nick be tossing bricks?

There are plenty of folks who can still rightly point fingers at the retiring Shaquille O’Neal for taking a handful of potential championship banners with him when he left Orlando back in 1996.

But Nick Anderson isn’t one of them. Not as long as the 0-for-4 memory of Nick the Brick in 1995 lives on.

Anderson joined the Orlando Sentinel’s Mike Bianchi on his radio show to lament the day that Shaq flew the coop:

“I was sitting at my home in Chicago watching the Olympics (in 1996) when a special bulletin came on and I happened to see the Big Fella (Shaq) holding a (Lakers) jersey standing next to Jerry West,” Anderson remembers. “I fell off the couch. Two minutes later, my phone rang and it was my dad calling to say, ‘You know, your championships just went to L.A.’ And how right he was. They (those championships) left and went to L.A.”

Of course, what Anderson did not re-live and lament was his own classic gaffe in Game 1 of the 1995 Finals that might well have altered the course of NBA history.

To refresh:

  • Anderson and Shaq’s Magic entered The Finals matchup against the Rockets which was considered a toss-up by oddsmakers.
  • The Magic built a 20-point lead in the second quarter, then squandered virtually all of that lead coming down the stretch.
  • With Orlando up by three, Anderson went to the foul line twice in the final 10.5 seconds of regulation and proceeded to miss four straight free throws when any one of them would have iced the game.
  • Kenny Smith then hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer, tying it up and the Rockets won in overtime on a Hakeem Olajuwon tip-in.
  • The Magic were demoralized, depressed and never able to bounce back, getting swept 4-0 by Houston.

Clink! Clank! Clunk! Crash!

Though it rarely makes the lists of infamy, it can be argued that Nick the Brick’s four pas was the biggest choke job in sports history.

The ball that went through Bill Buckner’s legs in the 1986 World Series was moving off the bat of Mookie Wilson and may have hit a patch of bad grass on the Shea Stadium infield. When Scott Norwood pushed his field goal wide right in Super Bowl XXV, there were huge, angry New York Giants charging in his direction.

Nick the Brick tossed up four cinder blocks without a defender’s hand in his face. On his home court, before a supportive crowd.

What should have been – probably would have been – a long, hard-fought war, turned into the closest thing to surrender. Anderson’s confidence was shattered. The Magic vanished. The young team that had swaggered through the playoffs barely put up a fight the rest of the way.

“That game took something out of us,” Magic forward Horace Grant said 1 ½ years later. “We never got it back.”

Four shots that changed a series. Four bricks that turned the Orlando franchise on its head and maybe shifted the balance of power in the NBA.

If the Magic had won that series and the 1995 championship, would Shaq have fled Orlando for the free-agent dollars and the Lakers’ Hollywood lure barely a year later?

With a championship under their belts, is it as likely the rift between O’Neal and coach Brian Hill would have grown so wide just one year later when the Magic were swept in the Eastern Conference finals by Chicago? Before Penny Hardaway’s body began to break down, wouldn’t Shaq, with a ring already on his finger, have been inclined to stay?

If Shaq doesn’t bolt so quickly to the West Coast, that means he’s not on hand for the arrival that same season of the 18-year-old Kobe Bryant, and the world misses out on their Hollywood histrionics that produced three championships and many soap opera twists in their relationship. If he doesn’t flee Orlando, then Shaq never stomps off to Miami to win a championship with Dwyane Wade. If Wade doesn’t win a title and form a bond with Pat Riley, maybe he’s not still there to lure his buddies LeBron James and Chris Bosh to South Beach.

See how it works, Nick?

When you start pointing fingers, you eventually come to a mirror.

18 Comments

  1. flo says:

    seems like every article you read about nick anderson nowadays has the same content. its getting boring and is nothing more than bashing. why dont you allow him to give his opinion on shaq retirement?
    P.S. even that he ft-percentage dropped dramaticly after those shots is a mystery.

  2. Spell Check says:

    Who is the proof reader on this article, or is there one at all? “Four Pas” is correct phonetically but is not written the way it is spelled here. “Faux Pas” is the correct spelling.

    • spell check yo self says:

      Are you serious? Four pas is not even close to correct phonetically. faux sounds like go, four sounds like or. And I’m pretty sure the writer was aware of this, and trying to be witty, suggested Nick didn’t make one faux pas, but four, hence, four pas.

    • tom says:

      It was a pun; he made a faux pas by missing four shots. Thus spawns ‘four pas’. Nice post, dummy.

    • Josh says:

      “four pas” was a play on words… referring to his four missed free throws…

    • Seriously? says:

      Errr….. you do understand that it was a play on words, right? As in four missed free throws…?

  3. Heat ALL Day says:

    Let me say FIRST, that I LOVE Shaq. Always was a fan, watched him his whole career. Most DOMINANT big man ever. Now let me say this. Tell me how exactly (other than the decision and some celebrating before the season started) that Shaq leaving was different than Lebron or any other free agent? Shaq left BECAUSE he did not win in Orlando, BECAUSE his teammates were NOT good enough, BECAUSE he could win in LA.

    I mean Lebron still gets crap for “The Decision” and all that, but its simply just an excuse for you guys love to have to hate Lebron. You would hate him EITHER way just for going with another team. Shaq BOLTED Orlando to play with BETTER teammates and a chance at a title, and THAT was ok, RIGHT???

    Sure it was! He got NO backlash for that at all other than simply the sour Orlando fans. But everyone else was cool with it. Just another example of the double standard for Lebron.

    When any one of us are playing pickup basketball, do we go to pick the WORST guys first, or the BEST guys? Huh? Answer that question, and you’ll realize that hatin on ANY guy for going to another team that has better players is STUPID.

    Sure I agree the celebration was a bit much. I was ok with the “Decision” special, but dont feel Lebron should’ve been goin off about 7 rings or whatever. But be that as it may, everyone makes mistakes in life, and the public CRUCIFIES him like he has committed a crime. All he’s guilty of is doin the same thing Shaq did, and what all of us do everytime we go out and say “we got next.”

    SHAQ DIESEL FOREVER

  4. berkamore says:

    I was pulling for the Rockets so I was overjoyed when he missed.

    But I don’t remember seeing anything like that before or since actually. It’s one of those instances in life when you can pinpoint a turning point as it happens, not with the benefit of hindsight. And I am sure that Magic fans knew those missed free throws would somehow have consequences……………

    Nick Anderson, not even gonna pile on the guy because I don’t think he ever recovered…….

  5. e says:

    it was shaq’s fault they lost, hakeem schooled him and made him look like a fool

    • dominic says:

      it wasn’t shaq fault…shaq is too young and unexperience in that year compare to hakeem he is in his prime…but even though shaq is young he can dunk in the face of hakeem many times…and after that loss year by year shaq rape hakeem,,,dunk by dunk…power moves back to the basket….and hakeem cannot stop that….So when you blame shaq you should also see the positive side…what if shaq is not in orlando that year…will they make it to the finals??the fault in not in him…because his lack of help in his teammates is the issue,,,why they loss and the unexperience of their team…

  6. watcher says:

    Nick also helped Orlando get there with his late steal on Jordan in game 1 of the ECSF. Either way, I’m sure Nick is glad you brought it up.

  7. OzHeatFan says:

    @ raymundo & bambi…. obvious u are the same stupid person trying to get hits on your pathetic sportales page…

    your opinions are worthless and your web page even more disgraceful…

    • wadefan says:

      good god thank you.. i cant stand his stupid posts.. every once in a while i’ll check different sports blogs.. his are garbage.. poorly written and always wrong about almost everything

  8. Bambi says:

    go Shaq you are the most Dominant Center Ever… Look what happened to the lakers after you left. there is no solid big man in the paint … http://sportales.com/basketball/top-10-nba-small-forwards-of-all-time/ Kobe would find it hard to find another star that could help him win another Championship….

    • Blah Blah123 says:

      umm how about the last two years… The lakers were still a great team without shaq clearly by winning two championships (although they didnt deserve it when perk got injured with the celtics) even still they were a great team without shaq. im not saying shaq is a bad player he is great im just trying to defend the lakers that won two championships without shaq. The many reasons they got swept was i think (purely my opinion) was that there was alot of “trust issues” which bynum Said, kobe and fisher arent getting any younger and also something about the Mavs this year down the stretch just saying.

  9. Jake says:

    That’s a lot of “what ifs.” If they got swept then there it’s unlikley they would have taken the series even if they had won game 1. Heck, what if the Mavericks had won in 06 or the Cavs in 07? Would D-Wade have stayed in Miami and would Lebron have left Cleveland? What if Caron Butler hadn’t have gotten injured. Would the Mavs be up 2-0 right now? What if Derek Fisher had missed his miracle shot against the Spurs? Would the Spurs have won the Championship that year instead of the Lakers? etc. etc.

    • ThePoint says:

      You’re missing the point, what the writer is saying is a person should not be shamelessly blaming other people (especially when you basically lose one of the most important games in your career)

  10. Raymundo says:

    First of all , Shaq deserve this retirement , second nobody should blame shaq on what he did. He led the lakers into three concsecutive Championships and gave heat their first championship, shq is the most dominant center ever , look at this artcle http://sportales.com/basketball/top-ten-greatest-nba-centers-of-all-time/ and probably has a shot in the greatest http://sportales.com/basketball/top-five-nba-players-in-all-time/ .. Good luck shaq.