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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Shaq Forced to Share NBA Spotlight


NEW YORK -- A little more than a year ago, the National Basketball Association spotlight was solely on Shaquille O'Neal.

His size-22 shoes and all.

You couldn't look anywhere without seeing Shaq. There were TV highlights, commercials, rap videos. You also couldn't listen to anything about the NBA and not hear about Shaq. With a pretty large spoon, we were force-fed a daily dosage of O'Neal, the wonderful 7-foot-1 Orlando Magic center.

And that's exactly the way the NBA wanted it.

After Michael Jordan walked away from the game and went off chasing his baseball dream, the league made it clear that it wanted O'Neal to take the banner and run with it. O'Neal was supposed to take the NBA into a new era.

On the way, though, Shaq was derailed.

You still see and hear about Shaq, but not with the same intense degree we used to.

Thursday night, O'Neal and the Magic lost 110-102 to the New York Knicks. The Knicks survived 15 consecutive missed shots by Patrick Ewing and a 30-point night by Nick Anderson to win their fourth straight game.

Ewing scored all 23 of his points in the first half, then lost his touch. But Anthony Mason had 13 of his 21 points in the second half, including a tip-in and layup that ended Orlando's final threat.

The victory moved New York within 2 1/2 games of Orlando in the Atlantic Division. The Magic, who haven't lost a home game all season, dropped to 9-13 on the road.

O'Neal had 18 points in a subpar performance.

It's no accident that the spotlight that used to engulf O'Neal's huge body now only shines on part of him. Without much choice, O'Neal has to share it now.

And not just with one other person.

Enter the Detroit Pistons' Grant Hill and his enormous popularity. Hill got the most votes of any player for next week's All-Star game.

And let's not forget the emergence of Penny Hardaway -- it's hard to tell who's the best player on the Magic some nights.

And the light is, no doubt, getting even smaller now that Magic Johnson has rejoined the Los Angeles Lakers.

"There's no question the spotlight is spread around a lot more than it was before,'' said Anderson of O'Neal. "With the two MJs back, it's harder to be out front by yourself, but he still gets his share.

"And it hasn't been a problem for him. He hasn't changed much.''

Bulls 105, Kings 85. In Sacramento, California, Jordan scored 27 points and Dennis Rodman tied his season high with 21 rebounds to lead Chicago to its 17th straight win.

The Bulls improved to 40-3, an NBA record for most wins with just three losses. The 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers were 39-3. ()

(For other results, see Scorecard.)