The Shaq experiment

Hey, NBA? Shaq and LeBron are playing well together.

Updated: December 22, 2009, 7:23 AM ET
By Chris Broussard | ESPN The Magazine
Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty ImagesLeBron and Shaq have been working well together this season.

This column appears in the December 28 issue of ESPN The Magazine.

Two dozen reporters are standing around LeBron James, grilling him about next summer, when Shaquille O'Neal decides to have a little fun. Disrupting the interview from the back of the throng, the Big Practical Joker offers LeBron $5 million to "say it right now." When his teammate balks, Shaq ups the ante to $10 million, alas, to no avail.

Media accounts the next day said Shaq had tried to coax LeBron into revealing the team he was going to sign with when his contract expires after the season. Really, though, Shaq was just trying to get LeBron to recite the Lil Wayne rhyme he'd been reeling off ad nauseam for the past few days.

That early-season reporting gaffe shows assumptions in Cleveland are like the wind off Lake Erie. They blow strong, and they blow often. Each Shaq miss or lost game, each locker room sneer or sideways glance on the bench sparks a new one -- and with it the feeling that this squad is headed for another May ousting.

Everyone needs to relax.