Exclusive: Basketball Superstar “SHAQ” announces retirement on Twitter!!
In a very short tape on his Twitter account, O’Neal says:
“We did it. Nineteen years, baby. I want to thank you very much. That’s why I’m telling YOU first. I’m about to retire. Love you. Talk to you soon.”
O’Neal, who turned 39 in March, averaged 23.7 points and 10.9 rebounds in his 19-year career out of Louisiana State. What set him apart right away was the enormity of his size — and his personality.
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At 7-1, 325, he was a beast underneath, with rim-rattling dunks. Off the court, his various Shaqisms became paart of the sports lingo of the time, such as: “I’ve won at every level, except college and pro,” before he had won an NBA title.
He was the NBA’s MVP in 1999-2000 with the Lakers, when he averaged a career-high 29.7 points with 13.6 rebounds and 3.0 blocks as Los Angeles won its first of the three titles in a row.
“There’s been a lot of great players in the league. But when you’re dealing with his combination of agility and brute strength, it changed every game plan. He was just so overpowering,” says ABC/ESPN NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy, who coached against O’Neal with the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets. “He really developed into a great passer. But it’s the freakishness of his size, strength and agility that set him apart.
“When he came into the league with Orlando, the way he ran the floor was incredible. His footwork inside was really good. I think the other thing people underestimate is he took so many incredibly forceful shots to the head and the body to prevent him from making a layup and sending him to the line.
“Thankfully, he didn’t have a temper.”
A 15-time All-Star, he averaged 24.3 points in the playoffs and 11.6 rebounds. He would retire as fifth all-time in scoring (28,596 points), 12th in rebounds (13,099 rebounds) and second only to Artis Gilmore among players with more than 2,000 baskets with a 58.2% field goal percentage.
He also won an NBA championship with the Miami Heat in the 2005-06 season, his second after leaving the Lakers.
“I’m a little bit sad,” said Heat president Pat Riley, who was the coach when Miami won the title in 2006. “It’s the end of an absolute 20-year career. Great, great player. … The league’s going to miss Shaq. I’m sure Shaq will do something big and beyond.”
Said Heat guard Dwyane Wade (FSY) , a teammate of O’Neal’s in 2006: “He came into my life at a time where I needed some guidance, in a way. I was 22 years old. He helped me grow. “I’m always appreciative of him for that, whether we spoke another day or whether we don’t. He meant a lot to my basketball career.”
But injuries, primarily an Achilles issue, kept O’Neal out of action after Feb. 1 until five minutes in a game April 3. After that, he only got into two playoff games against the Heat, his last action coming May 9.
Celtics spokesman Jeff Twiss said O’Neal has not yet informed the team of his plans. As of Wednesday afternoon, “To my knowledge, he has not informed any of us that he’s retiring,” Twiss said.
Even as he was struggling this year, O’Neal commanded the respect of his NBA brethren.
“Talk about someone who does it on both sides of the floor, and on and off the court. He did it as far as using his personality to get out to the world. He made fans believe they were one with him,” Heat forward LeBron James(FSY) has said.
“As big as Shaq is, the way he was with his personality, if he was a complete stranger and you see how big he is, you wouldn’t be afraid to go talk to him because you seen how likable he was and how his personality was, how outgoing he was.”
Contributing: Jeff Zillgitt in Miami