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Shaquille O'Neal Retires

Jovan Buha |
June 1, 2011 | 5:40 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer

O'Neal in his glory days, as a Los Angeles Laker. (Creative Commons)
O'Neal in his glory days, as a Los Angeles Laker. (Creative Commons)
“The only demise of Shaquille O’Neal will be his age.”

Very rarely can a man get away with speaking about himself in third person. Shaquille O’Neal did it consistently, though, and with the above quote accurately described his inevitable demise from basketball immortality.

To try and describe O’Neal’s basketball legacy wouldn’t do him justice, though, as he has simply accomplished too much to try and fit into one article. I’ll do my best to capture the essence of O’Neal’s career in as few words as possible.

His accolades include four NBA Championships, three Finals’ MVPs, one MVP and three All-Star Game MVPs. The Big Aristotle ranks fifth all-time in total points scored, fourth all-time in total playoff points scored, has the most seasons leading the NBA in field goal percentage (10), and has the most seasons averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds per game (13).

But as I said, those stats and numbers are not what make his career special. O’Neal was the NBA’s last transcendent center since Hakeem Olajuwon or David Robinson (sorry Dwight Howard, you’re not there yet).

At 7’1”, 335+ lbs. (on a good day), O’Neal had a combination of size and strength the NBA hadn’t seen since Wilt Chamberlain, and even he paled in comparison to Shaq physically.

At the same time, O’Neal was quick, agile and athletic, able to run a fast break by himself, break away from his defender for an alley-oop, and face-up and dunk on any and every 7-footer in his way. Go back and watch O’Neal’s career highlights; you’ll be amazed. The things he could do at that size and weight are unfathomable.

In his prime, O’Neal was unguardable. There were only three ways to stop him – get him fouled out (up to the referee’s discretion), foul him (he was a 52.7 percent free-throw shooter, third worst of all-time), or prevent him from getting the ball (took at least two to three players to do this, leaving other players wide open).

O’Neal wasn’t just a unique physical specimen who dominated NBA basketball. He was a larger-than-life personality who was capable of taking over a room full of people. Shaq had quotes and nicknames for days, always putting his career into perspective, comparing himself to his peers, and complimenting his own greatness.

Honestly, O’Neal said things Kanye West could only dream of. Fortunately for him, he got away with it and didn’t take a hit in the public’s eye. That was O’Neal at his finest, though.

He has starred in over 100 movies and television shows, helping break barriers and make it common for athletes to be more involved with the media. O’Neal started a brief rap career as well, putting out two albums and giving hope to athletes everywhere that rapping and playing sports was a feasible combination.

No, he wasn’t perfect. In his later days (starting about mid-way through his career), O’Neal often came to training camp out of shape, exemplified clearly through his famous rift between himself and then-teammate Kobe Bryant.

Any possession in which O’Neal didn’t touch the ball or shoot was a bad one in his eyes. His lack of defense and motivation in the regular season were apparent to anyone who knows basketball.

His most glaring weakness, or mistake, is the fact that he severed ties with nearly every franchise he played for, taking continuous shots at Bryant, Penny Hardaway, Steve Nash and LeBron James.

This fact may sadly prevent O’Neal from ever getting his jersey retired, despite winning multiple championships with LA and Miami, and leading Orlando to its first NBA Finals appearance.

O’Neal never stayed in Orlando or Miami long enough, wasn’t his dominant self in Phoenix, Cleveland or Boston, and severely upset Lakers’ owner Jerry Buss (as well as fans) with public shots at Buss, Bryant and former Laker head coach Phil Jackson after their messy break-up in 2004.

In all likelihood, though, O’Neal will eventually get his jersey retired with the Lakers, as the fans and team itself are sure to forgive O’Neal in time.

No matter what is said, O’Neal is a champion and winner. Even to this day, his teams were always at their best when he was healthy and playing well. Who knows what would have happened to the Boston Celtics if O’Neal hadn’t injured his Achilles tendon this season. In the end, Father Time took his toll on O’Neal.

 Argue over his legacy if you like. Say he was selfish, egotistical, outspoken, brash, lazy, childish and stubborn. But don’t take away from what he has achieved and accomplished. Don’t say he wasn’t the best player in the NBA during his prime. Don’t say he was just another athlete, ignoring all he has done for countless communities (police work, philanthropic efforts, etc.).

Shaquille O’Neal is arguably the most irreplaceable player in NBA history. We will most likely never see another NBA player like him ever again. And for that we tip our hats and thank him for all he has done.


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