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Shaq feared his career was over after injury
By wire services
Published February 27, 2005
As he lay on the court in Chicago, grasping at his left knee and wincing from the pain, Shaquille O'Neal feared he'd never play again.
O'Neal leaped for an alley-oop pass from Miami Heat teammate Dwyane Wade early in Tuesday night's game, a seemingly innocent play. Yet the 7-foot-1, 325-pound behemoth landed awkwardly, toppled over Bulls forward OthellaHarrington - and immediately knew something was wrong.
"It didn't feel right when I landed," O'Neal said Saturday, speaking in depth about the injury for the first time with reporters. "I thought it was over.
"I've always had fears of ending my career like that," O'Neal added. "As a youngster, when I'd talk to certain people and they would try to motivate us to go to school, the first thing they'd always say was. "What are you going to do when you blow your knee out?' ... I've always had fears of coming down freakily like that."
Fortunately for the 12-time All-Star, it turned out to be only a mild sprain, one that likely won't have him sidelined too much longer. O'Neal missed essentially his third straight game Saturday, and watched in a suit as the Heat beat Orlando.
O'Neal wore only a flexible blue brace over the knee before Saturday's game, walked around the locker room without a noticeable limp and said there's a slim chance that he may play in Orlando when the teams complete a weekend home-and-home series today. All he would say publicly in recent days was that the knee felt "good," and teammates said he immediately professed that the injury wasn't too serious. Yet on Saturday, O'Neal indicated those words may have been tinged with a bit of bravado.
"Very scared. ... Once I had the MRI, everything was okay," O'Neal said. "Made me feel a little bit better."
CAN WE SHARE?: Best friends in college, Ben Gordon and EmekaOkafor are now battling each other for the Rookie of the Year award.
"It would be nice if we could share the award," said Gordon, who is averaging 14.6 points a game for Chicago. "I think one person getting it over the other would be kind of messed up."
Okafor and Gordon both left Connecticut early after leading the Huskies to the national championship last season. The Charlotte Bobcats chose Okafor with the No. 2 pick in the overall draft, the Bulls snapped up Gordon at No. 3.
Since then, the two have battled from afar to win the top newcomer award. They squared off Saturday night when the Bobcats hosted the Bulls.
Okafor seemed like a lock for the title, winning Rookie of the Month honors in November and December, until an ankle injury cost him nine games and forced him to pull out of All-Star weekend activities. Gordon then won the award in January.
Gordon and Okafor were roommates for three years at UConn, and attended summer school together. They decided to enter the NBA draft together.
Their only other meeting this year was non-eventful, as Okafor was held to four points and Gordon didn't play the entire second half.