Tuesday , Oct , 27 , 2009 C.Y. Ellis

Shaq’s New Nickname: The Big Witness Protection Program

Shaquille O’Neal has been many big things (Aristotle, Pythagorean Theorem, Cactus) in many places since 1992 when he arrived in Orlando wearing mouse ears. Of course, before this none of the places ever got snow, to say nothing of sleet and freezing rain.

Now, the Big Rust Belt?

"I’m just here," O’Neal said Monday, still trying out motifs. "So far, everyone likes the Big Witness Protection Program."

He’s actually a one-man touring company, the 21st century’s answer to vaudeville, even if the fun quotient dropped sharply in recent stops.

When the good times ran out in Miami, where he won a fourth NBA title to go with his three as a Laker, he was unceremoniously sent to Phoenix, where he fit as easily with the Suns as the jockey he played in a commercial, whose horse looked like a cocker spaniel under him.