Let's all take a moment for those basket support systems and backboards that were left useless after a monster Shaq dunk. Take a moment and think about all those NBA centers who were used and abused for the better part of two decades by the most dominant force the league has ever seen. Let's take time out to remember how good 'The Diesel' really was over his 19-year career. When Shaquille O'Neal officially retired from the NBA Friday, he left a legacy and career that truly was one-of-a-kind. Arguably the best big man of all-time, certainly of a generation, Shaq's legendary career goes well beyond the basketball court.
From rapping to acting, Shaq did it all in spectacular fashion. After being the top pick in 1992 and the rookie of the year in 1993, Shaq put out the platninum-selling rap album, "Shaq Diesel." Not many NBA players can or could do that. He was featured in the movie "Blue Chips" with Nick Nolte and starred in "Kazaam," a laughable kids movie featuring Shaq as a 7-foot genie.
Some argue that if Shaq had been more committed to conditioning and his game, particularly his free throw shooting, he would have been hands-down the best center of all-time. Let's not judge that way. Being Shaq meant rapping and acting, and even being named a deputy sheriff. All that came with his unstoppable game on the court. Without Shaq's outrageous antics on-and-off the court, he doesn't have the same persona. And it's not like he didn't dominate every year he played, up until the last couple stops with Cleveland and Boston.
When you break down Shaq's career by the numbers, it's hard to say he could have done much more. He ended up fifth all-time in scoring with over 28,000 points. He's 12th in rebounds with over 13,000, and second all-time in field goal percentage (.582). He won four championships and was part of the probably the best guard/center combo in NBA history with Kobe Bryant. Playing 19 seasons in the NBA is also an incredible accomplishment for someone his size, especially when you factor in the abuse he took from opponents throughout the years.
The sound bites Shaq provided were as memorable as his dunks. From his night-club rap after Kobe lost the championship to Boston in 2008 ("Last week Kobe couldn't do without me"), to calling the Sacramento Kings the "Queens," to labeling former coach Stan Van Gundy the "master of panic," Shaq entertained like no other with his larger-than-life personality.
The time to step away is right for Shaq, and those that have followed his career closely aren't surprised to see him do it in the middle of the Finals. Shaq loves the spotlight and the attention. And it loves him back. Sure, he could have stepped away after last year, even the year before, but he earned the right to end his career any way he wanted. And it was in Boston green, with a injured Achilles' heel. But no one will remember the last few games he played. We'll be too busy watching baskets come down and laughing at his anecdotes.
He might not be wearing a uniform next year but Shaq will be around. A studio analyst, perhaps. Some sort of ambassador for the NBA, maybe. Producing TV shows and movies, certainly. Whatever he chooses to do, it will be entertaining and done big. Shaq doesn't know any other way.