By Jason Whitlock
Special to Page 2

As long as Jerry Buss is willing to play the idiot, we might as well ship Shaquille O'Neal to the Dallas Mavericks and enhance the entire league.

David Stern, The Commish, should take advantage of Buss's stupidity. Why should Kobe Bryant be the only benefactor? In the best interest of the league, The Commish should step in and do what's right for everybody: Hoodwink Buss into dropping his Dirk Nowitzki clause, and entice Buss into dealing Shaq to the Mavs for Steve Nash, Antoine Walker, the No. 5 pick, Christian Laettner and all the other scraps left on the Dallas bench.

Shaquille O'Neal
Shaq could thrive as a Dallas Maverick.

It shouldn't be that hard. Buss seems willing to do whatever is necessary to make Kobe happy, including jettisoning coach Phil Jackson (Buss's boyfriend-in-law) and alienating Shaq, the tree that falls in the woods.

Buss is right for insisting that Mark Cuban include Nowitzki, the three-point-shooting, 7-foot German, in any trade for the 7-1, 340-pound question the league can't answer. Dirk is the perfect Bonnie to play alongside Buss's Clyde, Kobe Bryant. Nowitzki is soft and doesn't want the shot in the clutch. Any superstar willing to ride shotgun to Nash and Michael Finley at crunch time would be more than happy to caddie for Kobe.

But who cares about Buss being right?

Not Jerry. So why should we?

Dr. Buss has hitched his star to the wrong wagon. He chose Bryant over Phil and Shaq because Buss believes that Kobe, just 25, can carry a franchise the way Jordan, Magic and Bird once carried the Bulls, Lakers and Celtics.

Kobe can't do it. He has the physical tools, and the desire and the ego. But he doesn't have the personality. No one is following Kobe Bryant anywhere. He fails to make his teammates better. He doesn't have the aura of a superstar. He doesn't have the resume. Besides the three-point heave at the end of regulation in Game 2 of the NBA Finals, what is Kobe's signature clutch shot? And that Game 2 rainbow doesn't even count, because the Lakers lost the series. A superstar's signature moment can't come in a playoff-series loss. Jordan's dagger over Craig Ehlo wouldn't be a big deal had Cleveland won the series.

Kobe is overrated. He has zero leadership ability. No one wants to hang out with Kobe. And he won't become a leader ... even with a hand-picked coach and after the departure of Shaq.

Buss is banking on Bryant turning the same corner that Jordan turned in his mid-20s. Jordan transformed himself from selfish scorer into the ultimate winner, ultimate clutch performer.

Kobe is as driven as Jordan. Kobe is a nasty competitor, like Jordan -- willing to rip his teammates and intimidate his opponents.

The problem is, Kobe isn't respected like Jordan.

Jordan could be a total ass to his teammates, but they still wanted to play poker with him on the plane. Jordan was likeable. He fit in. Kissing Jordan's pinky ring was an honor. He was a Don.

Kobe? He's Little Carmine, the punk who thought he could run New York hiding in a penthouse suite while Johnny Sack's crew raised hell on the streets.

Dirk Nowitzki
And Nowitzki would benefit playing alongside the Big Fella.

Kobe is a loner who doesn't connect with his soldiers. Shaq, on the other hand, still hangs out at the Bada Bing three times a week. Jerry Buss's decision will hurt the Lakers family.

But making Shaq the head of the Dallas family would be great for the league. Everybody would make more money. Shaq to Dallas is good TV. It's excellent marketing, the kind of marketing that Larry Bird believes in. Moving Shaq to Dallas to play alongside Nowitzki will make Dirk, the next Bird, a bigger star.

Playing next to Shaq is the best gig in sports. Shaq has already made Penny Hardaway and Kobe Bryant into superstars. Dirk has more game than either Penny or Kobe; and, as Bird would point out, Dirk is just the kind of Great-White-Hope superstar the league needs.

Yes, the NBA would benefit from a marketing standpoint if it had a white superstar playing in the NBA Finals. Bird's comments weren't even remotely controversial. Racial diversity at the top of the leaderboard certainly seems to have helped golf. The racial dynamic between Bird and Magic once saved the NBA from irrelevancy. Pairing Shaq and Dirk would give the league a boost. Cuban's defense-less United Nations squad couldn't get it done. Shaq could put the Mavs over the top.

It would certainly be fun to watch Dallas' salt-n-pepa combination square off against L.A.'s Kobe and Nash and Sacramento's Webber and Peja.

Make the deal, Dr. Buss. It's good business.

Jason Whitlock is a columnist for the Kansas City Star and a regular contributor on ESPN The Magazine's Sunday morning edition of "The Sports Reporters." He also hosts an afternoon radio show, "The Doghouse," on Kansas City's 61 Sports KCSP. He can be reached at ballstate68@aol.com.




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SHIP OUT SHAQ