He was a prolific producer of rebounds and record albums. And nicknames, too, as if at 7 feet 1 and 350 pounds he was too big for the simple “Shaq” that made him an instantly recognizable, one-name star in all of his endeavors.
Shaquille O’Neal had more than 28,000 points and almost 4 million Twitter followers. He appeared in six NBA finals, three times as the MVP, and seven feature films, twice in a starring role.
A 15-time All-Star, four-time champion and the 2000 NBA Most Valuable Player, the 39-year-old O’Neal announced his retirement on Twitter on Wednesday after spending most of his 19th season on the Boston Celtics bench, in street clothes because of leg injuries.
Along with a mid-afternoon tweet saying
“im retiring,” O’Neal included a link to a 16-second video of him saying, “We did it; 19 years, baby. Thank you very much. That’s why I’m telling you first: I’m about to retire. Love you. Talk to you soon.”
An inveterate prankster who gave himself a new nickname — or several — in each of his six NBA cities, O’Neal did not notify his latest team, leaving it wondering about his plans. He played just 37 games this season, the first of a two-year deal at the minimum veterans salary, making just three brief appearances after Feb. 1.
“He’s a giant,” commissioner David Stern said Wednesday at the NBA finals in Miami. “He’s physically imposing; he has an imposing smile. In the game, he imposed his will, and he has done it for quite a long time. It’s been a great run, and we’re going to miss him greatly. We hope we can find ways to keep him involved in the game.”
O’Neal, 39, retires fifth all-time with 28,596 points, 12th with 13,099 rebounds, and a .582 field-goal percentage that is second only to Artis Gilmore among players with more than 2,000 baskets. His free-throw percentage of .527 — well, now is not the time to dwell on that.
“He will go down as one of the greatest of all time,”
Said Miami Heat president Pat Riley.