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Shaq vs. Cleveland

Shaquille O’Neal has a knack for turning big challenges into reality TV. Well, roll the cameras because the NBA’s original Superman could help with some of our civic issues.
Jim Vickers
vickers@clevelandmagazine.com

He didn’t beat Michael Phelps in the pool or school Ben Roethlisberger on the gridiron, but there is a goofy appeal to Shaq just being Shaq that made ABC’s summer reality television series Shaq Vs. fun to watch even if most of the nation didn’t. It reminded us of Shaq’s Big Challenge in 2007, which found the then-Miami Heat center trying to motivate six teens to exercise more and eat less. Now that he’s settled in here, Shaq is focused on the reality show we’ll all be watching for the next several months: the Cavaliers 2009-10 season. But, if he happens to have some time, we see a few other spots where he could give the city a hand while making some entertaining television.

Shaq vs. Our Waistlines

THE ISSUE | As a city, we may be making strides here (Men’s Fitness did name us one of the Top 20 fittest cities this year). But in 2007, the magazine also called us the junk food capital of the nation. Bar food plus winter equals a few pounds to lose.

THE CHALLENGE | Shaq must recruit 1,000 downtown Clevelanders to take part in an outdoor group exercise class along the lakefront. To complicate matters, his class has to be lured from the Sunday morning Browns tailgating crowd.

THE PREDICTION | Shaq ultimately prevails as Browns fans ponder what’s more excruciating to endure with a stomach full of bratwurst and beer: 100 jumping jacks or the Browns’ fourth quarter.

Shaq vs. County Government

THE ISSUE | Oh, where do we begin with the drama that’s been pouring out of the Cuyahoga County administrative offices: Nepotism runs wild, county commissioner Jimmy Dimora is on the hot seat, and auditor Frank Russo may well be in the fire.

THE CHALLENGE | Given his flair for theatrics and recent appearance with the WWE, Shaq serves as a referee in big-time wrestling face-off between Jimmy “Big Italy” Dimora and one of his most vocal critics, Cuyahoga Republican Party chairman Rob “the Political Poet” Frost. Proceeds from the event go to funding an impartial study of Cuyahoga County government reform.

THE PREDICTION | Dimora manhandles Frost before, in a not-so-surprise twist, Shaq jumps in and takes Dimora down. Unfortunately, Shaq’s hands-on reform of county government falls short because he doesn’t have a family member working there who can hire him.

Shaq vs. Free Agent LeBron James

THE ISSUE | We know LeBron likes to be mysterious, but it’s not lost on anyone that as of press time his brand new Cavaliers contract was still unsigned.

THE CHALLENGE | Cavs owner Dan Gilbert promises to donate $1 million to Shaq’s favorite charity for every month before June he can get LeBron to sign a new contract. Tactics include posting reminders about the fickleness of New York sports fans and the truly sad state of the Knicks franchise inside LeBron’s locker.

THE PREDICTION | The Cavaliers win 4-3 over the Lakers in the NBA Finals, LeBron signs his new deal immediately after, Shaq gets a fresh contract to finish his career here, and the duo go on to make a series of critically panned but popular buddy comedies.


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