Shaquille O'Neal announces retirement
By RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency
|Boston Celtics center Shaquille O'Neal is fouled by the Miami Heat during the second of Game 3 of their NBA Eastern Conference playoff series in Boston, Massachusetts May 7, 2011. (REUTERS/Adam Hunger)
Even at 7-foot-1 and well north of 300 pounds, somehow, Shaquille O'Neal was constantly overlooked.
First those selecting the original American Dream Team in 1992 inexplicably opted for Duke's Christian Laettner over the man-child from LSU.
It didn't matter much as the Dream Team dispatched opponents by 40+ points, but it was the first of many snubs and shots at one of the greatest to ever play the game (he was tournament MVP the next time Team USA assembled).
"Too big", "too strong", "everything he does is a foul!" complained the detractors for almost two decades.
What they didn't mention was that Shaq averaged 23.7 points, 10.9 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game while shooting 58% from the field, despite taking a nightly pounding that would send most mere mortals to the infirmary.
Shaq tweeted off into the sunset on Wednesday with a link to a video, not surprising considering he was a sporting pioneer in terms of using social media.
"We did it. Nineteen years baby," he said. "I want to thank you very much, that's why I'm telling you first, I'm about to retire. Thank you, talk to you soon."
The fact that O'Neal only won one regular season MVP award is a joke.
Only Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and maybe, Hakeem Olajuwon, were better centres and at his peak, Shaq was as dominant as any of those greats.
O'Neal deserved to be league MVP every year from '98-99 to '02-03 and also had an extremely good case in '04-05 -- and made sure to tell everybody about it -- when Steve Nash claimed the first of his two MVP trophies. He proved his worth by earning recognition as finals MVP three times.
Shaq was the closest thing to the legendary Chamberlain, right down to the horrid free throw shooting (52.7% from the line compared to Chamberlain's 51.1%) and at his peak was a force no opponent could do anything about.
Fifteen times an all-star, O'Neal started off nearly 100 pounds lighter than how he finished and was a marvel running the floor for the Orlando Magic. Nobody his size had ever been able to get up and down so gracefully. He took out rims and backboards on national television and made Orlando a contender.
He also made one of the biggest free agent moves in sports history, fleeing the Magic Kingdom for the bright lights of Los Angeles. Acting and rapping side careers followed.
He feuded with Kobe Bryant and made another acrimonious exit after winning three championships, before claiming another in Miami.
He might not have handled his exits gracefully -- as many fans in Orlando, L.A. and Miami seem to hate him as love him -- but they certainly appreciated him while he was there.
O'Neal was a shadow of himself as he wound down his career in Phoenix, Cleveland and Boston, but still remained an imposing presence. The Celtics were 21-4 this season when O'Neal played 20 minutes or more.
The 39-year-old was the oldest player in the NBA and departs fifth all-time in scoring, 12th in rebounds, and second in field goal percentage.
He also was about the closest thing the NBA had over the past 20 years to a Harlem Globetrotter.
A born entertainer, who had as much fun off of the court as he did on it.
Hopefully a first ballot nomination to the hall of fame gives him back some of the respect he's been denied.
It will be a long time until we see somebody else like Shaq.