Shaquille O'Neal was a free agent looking for a place to land last summer. The Thunder was roughly $8 million under the NBA salary cap at the time, with plenty of money to fill its tank with Diesel.
Oh, the possibilities.
What follows is tongue-in-cheek — pretty much, at least — but let me be very clear: I love me some Love Shaq.
The Big Aristotle is in his 19th season and is the oldest player in the league at 38. The 7-foot-1, 325(ish)-pound center signed a two-year deal with the Boston Celtics worth the league minimum of just under $1.4 million per season.
Cactus Shaq said he wanted to finish his career with the storied franchise. Had he joined the Thunder, he would have helped a franchise become the story.
For the Thunder to have approached Shaq Daddy would have been surprising. The team's general manager is Sam Presti Esq., not Ringling Bros. Presti's job is to build a successful franchise that can sustain itself, not to bring the circus to town for a year or two.
But Shaqovic could have been a notable contributor to the Thunder's "Rise Together," an organization that genuinely embraces the community. Think anybody would draw a bigger crowd for a public appearance than the NBA's original Superman?
Dr. Shaq has more Twitter followers than any athlete in the world (3,315,156 at last count; roughly nine times as many as Kevin Durant).
What makes the Big Cactus so darn lovable is he's a hall of famer who freely acknowledges his time on center stage has now passed. He defers to the team's reigning stars. He did so for Dwyane Wade in Miami, for Steve Nash and Amar'e Stoudemire in Phoenix, for LeBron James in Cleveland, and now for the Big Four in Boston (heck, yes, Rajon Rondo should be included).
Shaqtus gladly would have stepped aside in OKC and given the stage to Durant, Russell Westbrook and a Thunderous herd of 20-somethings.
Come game time, the Big Felon could have planted himself down low for the Thunder, occupying space that frequently needs to be occupied, particularly with Nick Collison on the mend and Cole Aldrich and Byron Mullens still so raw.
Granted, the Big Barychnikov has lost a step or two, or three. He is playing nowhere near his career averages of 24 points and 11 rebounds, but numbers half that size more than justifies his minimum salary. Think the Thunder would accept 12 points and 5.5 rebounds in 20 minutes of playing time right now?
The Big Galactus has averaged 52 games per season since leaving the Lakers in 2004, but he still has worth, particularly to a third-year franchise still in the honeymoon stage.
The Thunder could have had a hall of famer in its locker room. Players could have gone to chapel services one hour before tipoff as usual, then perhaps punctuated it with a passage from Lord Shaq.
Imagine the influence Wilt Chamberneezy could have had on the Thunder's peach-fuzz centers. Obi-Shaq Kenobi could have spread his great wisdom throughout the entire Thunder village.
Serge Ibaka from the Republic of Congo could have added a fifth language to his already impressive repertoire — Lingala (Congolese dialect), French, Spanish, English and Shaqanese.
Had the acquisition of Shaq Fu taken place, hopefully he would have approved of our city. Shaqalicious likes the Waffle House, judging from his Tennessee visit last August during which he left a $30 tip on a $20 tab, and we must lead the free world in Waffle Houses per capita around here.
The Big Maravich posed like a statue for an hour in Harvard Square last month, unbeknownst to teammates.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers, a straight-shooter, said this of the Big Shamrock's presence in Boston: "He brings us something to talk about off the floor, probably as much as any player we've had. I'm good with that, as long as he brings that same interest on the floor.
"Shaq gets it in a lot of ways, you know. He loves his job, he plays the game, but he also understands that it's not so serious that you can't enjoy life and have fun with people. The people are the ones who pay to watch the games. I would say that he gets that as much as any star."
Boston is numb to hall-of-famers walking its street, yet the city quickly has been drawn to Red Auershaq.
The Big Leprechaun becoming a public spectacle means little, if anything, to his new teammates, but it could have served as a wonderful deflection of attention to Thunder players who are comfortable blending in with the locals.
National exposure has intensified on Oklahoma City since last year's 27-win improvement that resulted in a 50-win season and a playoff berth. The Green Monster could have sent the Thunder's Q rating even higher.
Having Big Daddy on the Thunder roster would have been undeniably intriguing.
The Celtics face the Thunder on Sunday night at 6 inside Oklahoma City Arena. Shaqachusetts is battling a bruised right knee and has missed the last three games. He made the trip, but it's unknown if he will play.
We must give the Shaqnificent one our best regards. Let him know what he missed, what we missed.
John Rohde: 475-3099. John Rohde can be heard Monday-Friday from 6-7 p.m. on The Sports Animal Network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.
NAME THAT SHAQ
Upon Shaquille O'Neal's arrival in Boston, a Twitter poll asked fans to choose a new moniker for the man who already leads the planet in nicknames.
The listed choices were Red Auershaq, Shaqachusetts, The Big Leprechaun, The Big Shamrock, Tip-in O'Neal, Big Adult, The Big Dig It and The Green Monster.
At last check, Green Monster (32 percent) was ahead, followed by Big Shamrock (25 percent), Big Leprechaun (16 percent) and Shaqachusetts (14 percent).
The 7-foot-1, 325-pound O'Neal said he was once a T-ball All-Star and a high school first baseman with the "world's biggest strike zone."
He was known as Shaqqie Robinson (Jackie Robinson) as a little kid. When he pitched, he was The Big Black Unit (Randy Johnson).
O'Neal was respectful last summer during his "Shaq Vs." episode against St. Louis Cardinal slugger Albert Pujols.
"Usually I try to get into the mind of my opponent," O'Neal said, "but I don't think it's wise to talk smack to a man who always has a bat in his hands."