June 01, 2011
For the past few seasons, Shaquille O'Neal(notes) has been a shadow of his former dominant self, putting in some excellent games but generally struggling with injuries. It hasn't been the most surprising development for a player of Shaq's stature, but it has been an odd sight to see a player who was once such a force turn into a role player. It's the way of the world for former stars: They remind us of their old selves and can't quite match the same level of production.
So it should come as no surprise that Shaq, current Boston Celtics center, announced his retirement from the NBA after 19 seasons on Wednesday afternoon via a short 15-second video posted to his Twitter account from the social media service Tout. Shaq had a rough season for the Celtics, playing in only 37 games before sitting out in January due to a persistent Achilles' tendon injury. He came back for two playoff games against the Miami Heat, but he was obviously hobbled and played just 12 combined minutes with little effect on the result. It wasn't a glorious end to his stellar career, but it's also hard to blame him for shying away from a prolonged rehab process when there's been little indication he'd be able to make a full recovery or avoid further injury.
"I really, really thought about coming back," he said, "but this Achilles is very damaged and if I had it done the recovery would be so long we'd have same outcome as this last year -- everyone sitting around and waiting for me.
"I didn't want to let people down two years in a row. I didn't want to hold Boston hostage again.
"I'm letting everybody know now so Danny (Ainge) and the organization can try to get younger talent. I would love to come back, but they say once the Achilles is damaged it's never the same. I don't want to take that chance."
By all indications, this is the end of the road for the Diesel.
As is the case when any great player retires, it's now time to look back on his accomplishments and take stock of his career. Shaq did much on the court that will ensure his enshrinement as a first-ballot Hall of Famer in Springfield: four championships (three with the Lakers, one with the Heat), one MVP award in 2000, 15 All-Star appearances, eight All-NBA First Team selections, and a reputation as the most dominant player in the league for at least half a decade. When historians take a look at the post-Jordan era, O'Neal will be one of its most notable figures.
Apart from his on-court greatness, though, Shaq deserves notice for the way he leveraged his outsized game into a position as a multimedia sensation. When he came into the NBA in 1992, Shaq was on his way to a rap and acting career. While those forays into entertainment earned him a good deal of mockery and fell by the wayside as he became a champion, it's important to remember that they helped define his brand as much as the times he shattered backboards and brought down the basket stanchion. Whatever he did, whether on the court or off, Shaq was huge.
That's why it's hard to imagine his retirement as his saying goodbye to the NBA, let alone public life. We won't ever see him on an NBA court again, but Shaquille O'Neal isn't going anywhere.
Oh, and we'll still have his highlights. Check out this eight-minute mix of some of his most memorable moments.
(Original video at top via TBJ)
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