As expected, Shaquille O’Neal announced his retirement. He closed his 19-year NBA career in typical Shaq style – by being just a bit different. He took to the webcam and issued a brief statement. O’Neal will host and feed the media on Friday in a more traditional setting. Well, it’ll be as traditional as it can be while occurring at his home.
O’Neal burst onto the scene as a rim-wrecker at LSU. He became an immediate highlight-reel making quote machine upon his arrival in Orlando. I remember the great anticipation of the release of his rookie cards and the furor caused by his 1992-93 Topps Stadium Club “Beam Team” insert and the Upper Deck redemption.
I’ll admit to having a few of his rookies tucked away in boxes and to owning the classic “Shaq Diesel” release. Hey, “(I Know I Got) Skillz” stands the test of time!
You also can’t look beyond the brilliance of “Blue Chips.” Go watch Nick Nolte’s closing speech and tell me that it doesn’t resonate in the current NCAA climate. And who doesn’t scream out “Did you take money?” at every opportunity?
Just look at Bob Cousy’s face. OK, I digress.
Upon entering the NBA, Shaq was a ferocious, raw and awe-inspiring behemoth. He refined his game over time and went on to become the fifth-highest scoring player in NBA history. No, the big man could not shoot free throws.
He was charismatic, engaging and approachable superstar. Critics deride his work ethic and the aforementioned free throw misses (some 5,317 of them) in trying to minimize his accomplishments. They’ll call to mind only those final seasons when he became a nomad and experienced myriad injuries.
O’Neal racked up 15 All-Star and 14 All-NBA appearances. As Phil Jackson noted in an episode of “Bar Fly” on FOXSports.com, O’Neal most certainly should have received multiple MVP awards (he had only one). He also walks away with four NBA Championship rings (three with the Lakers and one with the Heat). And, he’s offered more quotes to the media that seemingly all other superstars put together.
I’m going to take a day or two to think about O’Neal’s place in history. Clearly, he’s been the most dominant true “big man” of this era. Dirk Nowitzki has height, but he’s not in the same category. Otherwise, you’re going back to David Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon.
So, is he a top 10 of all time? Where does he rank among the all-time great centers?
I’ll need to take my time and look through the stats, the different eras and the full context before throwing together a list. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is actively monitoring all references to “G.O.A.T” talk, and I don’t want to anger The Captain.
I wish he’d gone out with a big run for the Celtics in 2010-11, but his injuries limited him to 37 games. We’ll just have to watch the highlight reels to remember him in his prime. And, of course, you can pop in a CD or film.
O’Neal won’t be out of circulation long. He’d be a colorful analyst, to be sure. Let’s team him with Charles Barkley and see where it goes.
Just don’t revisit “Kazaam!”