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O'Neal Feared for His Career After Spraining Knee

Sunday, February 27, 2005; Page E04

As he lay on the court in Chicago, grasping at his left knee and wincing from the pain, Shaquille O'Neal feared he'd never play again.

O'Neal leapt for an alley-oop pass from Heat teammate Dwyane Wade early in Tuesday night's game, a seemingly innocent play. Yet the 7-foot-1, 325-pound behemoth landed awkwardly, toppled over Bulls F Othella Harrington and immediately knew something was wrong.

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"It didn't feel right when I landed," O'Neal said yesterday, speaking in depth about the injury for the first time with reporters. "I thought it was over.

"I've always had fears of ending my career like that," O'Neal added. "As a youngster, when I'd talk to certain people and they would try to motivate us to go to school, the first thing they'd always say was, 'What are you going to do when you blow your knee out?' . . . I've always had fears of coming down freakily like that."

Fortunately for the 12-time all-star, it turned out to be only a mild sprain, one that likely won't have him sidelined too much longer. O'Neal missed essentially his third straight game yesterday, watching in a suit as the Heat beat the Magic, 101-98.

O'Neal wore only a flexible blue brace over the knee before the game, walked around the locker room without a noticeable limp and said there's a chance -- albeit slim -- that he may play in Orlando when the teams complete a weekend home-and-home series today.

-- From News Services

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