OKLAHOMA CITY, June 1, 2011— After 19 seasons “Shaq Diesel” is calling it quits. Shaquille O’Neal announcing his retirement Wednesday via a video on twitter.
A lot of questions will be asked about where he ranks all time. Was he the most dominant big man ever? Was he the greatest Laker ever?
For today, none of that matters. Because we can debate all of that and never get an answer. But I know this, he was the most entertaining player ever.
He was a basketball player, an actor, a reality star, rapper, a deputy and big kid.
Shaq burst into the league in 1992 with the Orlando Magic. He was a beast. Charles Barkley recently said on the Bill Simmons podcast that Shaq was the first guy he ever saw where he said, “That’s a big dude.”
Shaq got swept out of the 1995 Finals and when he became a free agent decided to take his talents to Hollywood. From there, he went on a tear with the Lakers resulting in three championships. A fall out with Kobe Bryant led him to be traded to the Miami Heat where he won another championship in 2006.
Shaq was the player that took the mantle for the NBA when Michael Jordan left. He was a different figure than Jordan. He was a big man. He was a giant. And although Jordan was beloved, Shaq had a huge personality that made him different. He felt like your crazy uncle that won’t grow up.
He probably could have been even better than he was. He often came into the season out of shape. He was injured more often than his team would have liked, but he was always dominant.
When the New Orleans Hornets were moved to Oklahoma City for two years I knew I wanted to go to as many games as I could. But the one player I had to see was Shaq. Not LeBron, not Kobe, not Iverson. Shaq.
When the Heat arrived in Oklahoma City rumors flew. Shaq is at the mall. The stories go that he was surrounded by people. High fiveing, fist bumping, taking pictures and signing autographs. He went to the video game store.
My buddies and I heard where he was staying downtown and raced down there. We pulled up about the same time a cab did. The door opens and all we saw was this huge shoe step out. It was Shaq. We ran up to him like complete tools. My friend Owen left his car running in the middle of the street.
“Hey Shaq don’t arrest anyone in Oklahoma City,” somebody said.
“No, I’m off-duty tonight,” Shaq responded.
“Hey Shaq, I talked to the police about getting deputized,” I said.
“Oh yeah, what did they say?” He asked.
“Weekend classes for three months,” I responded.
“That’s right. Good luck, baby,” Shaq said. And then he put his huge hand out and slapped my shoulder and then slapped my hand.
Shaquille O’Neal. Awesome.
He was a guy that made everybody around him have a good time. He was a player you had to see in person. Even if you didn’t like him, you had to see this “big dude.”
He’s one of the few NBA stars that my mom knows who he is. He was transcendent. During the All-Star game introductions in Phoenix, he danced with the Jabbawockeez for his intro. There will never be a player like Shaq where you almost couldn’t wait to see what he was going to do off the court as much as on the court.
He should have retired last year. He lumbered through this year with the Celtics. He was a non-factor. Since he didn’t retire last year, I wish that he would have let us all know that this would be his last. So we could all celebrate him. So we could see all see him for one last time.
He won’t go away, though. He’ll do something and it will make us laugh. Reality show, talk show, who knows.
Shaquille O’Neal. Good luck, baby.
Jason Black is a regular sports contributor on America’s Morning News and America’s Radio News. Coincidently, or not, he also does movie reviews for KJ103 and102.1 Kissin’ Country. You can also follow Jason on Twitter @jasonblack23.
- This Oct. 29, 2010 file photo shows Boston Celtics center Shaquille O'Neal sitting on the bench with teammates during the second half of Boston's 105-101 win against the New York Knicks in a NBA basketball game in Boston. (Image: Associated Press)
- This April 21, 2002 file photo shows Los Angeles Lakers's Kobe Bryant, left, and Shaquille O'Neal embracing in the closing minutes in Game 1 of their best-of-five first-round Western Conference playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers in Los Angeles. (Image: Associated Press)
- This May 21, 2001 file photo shows Los Angeles Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal, left, and teammate Kobe Bryant embracing at mid court during the final second of their victory over the San Antonio Spurs in game two of the Western Conference Finals in San Antonio, Texas, Monday, May 21, 2001. (Image: Associated Press)
- In this June 15, 2001 file photo, Los Angeles Lakers' Shaquille O'Neal holding up the MVP trophy, right, and the championship trophy after the Lakers won their second straight NBA championship in Philadelphia. (Image: Associated Press)
- This Feb. 5, 1999 file photo shows Los Angeles Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal (34) putting his arms around teammates, Elden Campbell (41) and Kobe Bryant (8) as Eddie Jones (6) and Derek Harper walk in front as they return to play the Houston Rockets in the fourth quarter at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, Calif. (Image: Associated Press)
- This April 28, 1996 file photo shows Orlando Magic center Shaquille O'Neal (32) running down the court giving the number one sign after making a slam dunk during the final minutes of the Magic's 92-77 win in game two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against he Detroit Pistons in Orlando. (Image: Associated Press)
- April 7, 1996 file photo shows Orlando Magic's Shaquille O'Neal dunking the ball and knocking Chicago Bulls' Dennis Rodman out of the way at the same time during their game in Orlando. (Image: Associated Press)
- June 25, 1992 file photo shows Louisiana State University player Shaquille O'Neal waving to the crowd after he was picked first by the Orlando Magic team in NBA Draft at Memorial Coliseum in Portland, Ore. (Image: Associated Press)
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