EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The circle is complete.
Shaquille O'Neal has returned home, triumphantly.
He is the Big Janitor now, not the debris swept away in the dust bin.
He has to be recognized as the most dominant force to hit the NBA Finals.
Philip Harrison can give his son the ultimate compliment, the sign that the father's job is fulfilled.
"He's a man," Harrison said.
When O'Neal first made it to the NBA Finals with the Orlando Magic, in 1995, he was swept by the Houston Rockets.
In his first playoff appearance a year earlier he was swept out of the first round by the Indiana Pacers, thanks largely to a big shot by a Pacer guard named Byron Scott.
O'Neal and Scott played on the Los Angeles Lakers together for a year when O'Neal first came to Los Angeles in 1996 (following yet another sweep of the Magic by the Chicago Bulls. O'Neal has been swept five times in his career).
Wednesday night, Scott was coaching the New Jersey Nets when O'Neal finished off the Eastern Conference champs with a 113-107 victory in Game 4 of the NBA Finals.
That gave the Lakers a Finals sweep, which is almost as rare as their championship three-peat.
The Lakers became only the fifth team to win three consecutive championships, and the seventh team to win the Finals, 4-0.
In the process, O'Neal won his third NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award.
That separates him from Hakeem Olajuwon, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Willis Reed, great centers who were named Finals MVP two times each since it was first awarded in 1970. (Like blocked shots, which weren't kept as an official statistic until the 1970s, you just have to assume Bill Russell would have set the record. Michael Jordan holds it with six).
Magic Johnson, the only other player to win the Finals MVP award three times, hugged O'Neal near the sidelines afterward. It was a symbolic welcoming of O'Neal and these Lakers into the elite class of winners.
But the moments O'Neal cherished in the time the stage was being prepared for the trophy presentation were spent with his family. He hugged his father and his grandfather, Donald Harrison. He kissed Shaunie Nelson, the mother of his children, and picked up sons Shareef and Myles and his infant daughter Amirah.
The outspoken Philip Harrison found himself struggling to speak as he looked at the family reunion the child he raised in Newark had brought to the middle of Continental Airlines Arena.
"Words can't explain it," Harrison said. "Can't even talk, man. It's great, it's great, it's great. He was born and raised here. He started out here. It means everything to us.
"If somebody told me to write a script how it was supposed to end, I would never write it like this. It's a blessing."
O'Neal imagined this. And when it was all on the verge of becoming reality, after a long Tuesday spent with aunts, uncles, cousins and great-grandparents, after showing his kids the house where he grew up, he went to the place where it all began. It was a place the locals called "The Hole," home of the roughest playground games in Newark.
"I went to the park where I first started last night about 12, 1:30," O'Neal said. "As a youngster, I used to just play with the raggedy basketball my father got me. I used to dream about certain things. I just stuck with it. All my dreams have come true."
Where once there was serious doubt he could ever win a championship, it's now such a task to keep him out that NBA Commissioner David Stern joked about allowing opponents to use a sixth man when O'Neal is on the floor.
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