A few years back at one of the Los Angeles Lakers' championship celebrations, Shaquille O'Neal held the microphone.
"Can you dig it?" he bellowed to the celebrating crowd. "Can you dig it?"
It was said with flair, of course, with the right words emphasized and the right words stretched out.
Shaq does nothing without flair.
The phrase comes from the movie "The Warriors," a classic, great film about a gang leader named Cyrus who tried to unite New York's gangs into one force.
"Can you dig it?" he bellowed over and over to the Central Park gathering where he announced his plan.
It's now time to ponder the gang that will be playing for the Cavaliers next season: LeBron James and Shaquille O'Neal are on the same team, in Cleveland.
Can you dig it?
After a disappointing playoff exit, the Cavs again have become the talk of professional basketball.
How it works on the court . . . well, that remains to be seen.
But the trade that brought O'Neal (isn't it odd to refer to him as anything but Shaq?) to the Cavs is one of those that will wake you right out of your sleep when it comes across the clock radio early in the morning.
O'Neal and James.
For the Cavs.
When was the last time something like this happened in this area?
And the Cavs got him for a bucket of nails and some old tennis shoes. The Cavs made a heist, not of the same proportions as the Pau Gasol heist by the Lakers, but a heist nonetheless.
It's not even out of the question to think the Cavs are not done this offseason.
This trade increases the likelihood of Anderson Varejao re-signing. You want to be the guy that turned down the chance to play with Shaq and LeBron?
It also increases the chances of other players being willing to come to the Cavs. When all is said and done, all the angst about James possibly leaving might be reversed into positives because of the players James attracts.
The Cavs have the draft, and the ability to sign another player (Rasheed Wallace? Imagine that mix of personalities if he joins O'Neal and James).
Step one came Thursday, and in taking that step, the Cavs acquired a presence, a player and a personality of immense proportions.
O'Neal is not what he was.
There's no sense trying to claim he is.
But he averaged 18 points and eight rebounds a year ago, and he was a legitimate third-team all-NBA center.
He doesn't have to play a lot of minutes in the regular season. He can point to the playoffs, and he provides options Cavs coach Mike Brown did not have this past season.
Too, he's driven.
Every statement he has made indicates that he is dying to put a stop to the Dwight Howard phenomenon. He's belittled him, at one point calling Howard "an impostor."
Apparently the original Superman did not appreciate a young one usurping his position.
O'Neal has won a title with Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade.
Now he has the chance to win one with James. Not a bad legacy, eh?
A title would be Shaq's fifth, and put him one ahead of Tim Duncan and on par with Bryant, who won one without O'Neal.
O'Neal also wants to play beyond this season, when he is due to make $20 million. What better way to earn another two-year contract than to play well for the Cavs, in Cleveland.
The Cavs don't have to re-sign him, but they could if his play deems it worthwhile.
If they don't — and they probably won't — they still can use all the salary cap space they've reserved for 2010 to add a different standout to play with James.
But more than a player, the Cavs acquired a presence. Think about it. How many players can cast any kind of shadow on the presence of James?
He's the guy who said he wanted to be known as "The Big Aristotle."
The guy who has mastered Twitter.
The guy also known as Superman, the Big Diesel and Shaq Fu.
He's funny, engaging — and enjoyable to have around. He competes, but he enjoys himself, too.
He earned his degree from Louisiana State and stood up and said how it mattered to him, that now he had security and could "get a real job."
Then he added: "LSU now stands for Love Shaq University."
Yes, "can you dig it?" returned then, as well.
This might help James. It might be a huge help to him, in fact. No longer will James have to be the media spokesperson. No longer will his every move be scrutinized. O'Neal will be around to deflect some of that attention — though, it still will be LeBron's team.
The scene of fans thronging to his arrival in Miami after his trade from the Lakers to the Heat remains magical.
There he said of himself: "I'm like toilet paper, toothpaste and certain amenities. I'm proven to be good."
For good measure, Shaq won a title with the Heat.
Can he do it with the Cavs? That remains to be seen. But many reports during the day said that James told the Cavs to get it done.
Clearly James had his fill of Howard establishing position a few feet from the basket and scoring at will in the playoffs.
In fact, in overtime of Game 4, he nearly lost his cool when Varejao swatted at the ball while guarding Howard instead of fouling Howard.
Howard might dunk on Shaq, but it sure won't be that easy that often.
There will be plenty of time to analyze this trade in more refined basketball terms. Plenty of time to see if Brown is up to handling these two all-timers on his team (though it wouldn't seem that difficult given the attitudes of both players). Plenty of time to discuss defensive assignments and how Zydrunas Ilgauskas fits in.
But right now it might be time to rearrange the budget to buy tickets.
Because seats for 2009-10 will go like lightning.
It also might be time to take a step back and realize that the Cavs won 66 games last season and already have filled one of their biggest needs.2 comments on this story
Might it have happened sooner, at the trading deadline in February?
Maybe — but that deal wasn't as close as it seemed.
It happened Thursday, and the Cavs now have the elements to provide one wild ride for the next 12 months.
We can all dig that.